Your pet’s mouth is one of their most important body parts. They get nutrition, which nourishes, strengthens, and supports general health, through their mouth, and their teeth and gums must be healthy to support eating. A neglected mouth can become infected, and painful, and can spread disease to other parts of the body, including the heart, liver, and kidneys. Daily oral care is essential to keep your pet’s smiles healthy.
How to identify an unhealthy mouth in your pet
Identifying an unhealthy mouth is not easy, although you can check for teeth that are yellow rather than white, and gums that are not light pink and flat. An unhealthy mouth will have foul-smelling breath, and broken or missing teeth.
So, if your pet’s teeth are covered in a hard substance called tartar, their gums are red or swollen, their breath smells foul, and/or they have broken or missing teeth, there is definitely reason for concern.
Pets’ oral health is declining
Statistics show that a majority of pets have some form of dental disease by age 3, with some pets affected as early as 1 year old. Why? Humans brush their teeth daily, and still require regular dental cleanings, so imagine how much bacteria and decay are lurking under the tartar coating your pet’s teeth. Pets cannot brush their teeth, and need their owners to dedicate time to a daily toothbrushing regimen to keep their mouth and teeth healthy.
How does brushing your pet’s teeth help?
Toothbrushing helps prevent infection of the gums surrounding the teeth, called gingivitis. In addition to physically removing tartar and bacteria, the toothbrush bristles can stimulate the pet’s immune system to fight gum infection. Pet-specific toothpaste adds enzymes to the brushing process that help break down unwanted bacterial byproducts.
Toothbrushing that begins when the pet is young, before any mouth disease sets in, and continues daily, can help prevent gingivitis and secondary complications. Once your pet has gingivitis, toothbrushing can help prevent any worsening of infection, pain, or loose teeth, but cannot fix those conditions. An unhealthy mouth requires a complete oral health exam with X-rays, all the teeth thoroughly scaled and polished, and extractions or other needed procedures, which can only be performed under general anesthetic.
Cleaning your pet’s teeth under general anesthetic
We recommend that your pet receive an annual dental cleaning with anesthesia to allow our veterinary team to thoroughly check their mouth for signs of infection, pain, broken or loose teeth, or other abnormalities. Infection and painful problems can hide deep in the gums, and are found only on dental X-rays. Anesthesia prevents anxiety and fear in your pet during dental procedures, keeps them still in difficult positions for X-rays, prevents pain while our veterinary team thoroughly cleans their teeth, including below the gumline, treats issues such as tooth-root abscesses, and performs any necessary extractions. We will monitor your pet closely to ensure they are safe throughout the dental procedure, and during recovery from anesthesia. You will have no need to worry.
Additional dental care for your pet at home
An overwhelming number of pet dental products are available that you can use in addition to, or instead of, toothbrushing, but you must choose products guaranteed to help prevent plaque and tartar. Check for the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of approval, which endorses only products manufactured by companies that have presented data and research results proving their product’s effectiveness. The VOHC provides separate lists of products for dogs and cats that they have approved. Products include dental diets, food and water additives, oral wipes and gels, and dental chews.
We want to ensure that your pet never has to suffer with mouth pain or infection. Your at-home toothbrushing regimen, and our professional examinations and regular cleanings, are key for your pet’s healthy mouth and overall well-being—and their happy smile. Contact us to schedule your pet’s annual dental exam today.
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Thank you, I am glad you found it helpful and hope you and your pet are well! – Crystal C. Murray, DVM