Pet Dentistry 101
Just like humans, cats and dogs have teeth which require regular care and hygiene to keep them looking clean, feeling comfortable and to prevent bad breath. The difference is that dogs and cats don't brush their teeth twice a day (usually) and that they cant tell us if they're teeth are hurting.
The teeth of dogs and cats are made of two main parts; the crown (the part you can see) and the root (the part beneath the gum surface). When your pet eats, food residue remains on the tooth surface and is wedged between teeth and under the gums.
Bacteria that are normally present in the mouth will then begin to feed off this residue and will form a 'bacterial biofilm' which causes the slimy feeling you get on your teeth in the morning. Unless removed early, certain chemicals in the saliva will then turn the slime and bacteria rock hard, into 'calculus'. This normally cannot be removed by chewing.
Calculus causes inflammation of the gums and periodontal ligament (the ligament which holds the roots in place under the gum-line). The inflammation then results in breakdown of the tooth itself and the bone surrounding the roots, causing pain, making infections more likely and causing the tooth to eventually fall out.
If severe, bacteria can gain access to the blood stream and cause illness as they spread through the body. Bacteria in the blood can actually build up on the valves in the heart and cause severe heart disease!
This is why it is important to care for your pets teeth as well as your own. The best thing you can do to prevent dental disease is to carefully brush your pets teeth with a soft children's toothbrush daily.... We know what you're thinking, and you're right...many dogs, and especially cats, will not let you do this... unless your willing to show off some battle-wounds.
This is where dental chews and diets come in. Dental chews and diets work by sticking to the tooth without crumbling and pulling off the bacterial slime as it is pulled away. By removing the slime, you prevent the formation of calculus and the inflammation associated with it.
However, despite our best efforts, sometimes dental disease occurs regardless. A dental clean and polish under anaesthetic is usually needed at least once in your pets life to keep the teeth feeling clean and to prevent infection.
If you're worried about your pet's teeth, please call us to arrange a free dental assessment available all year round.