By: Dr. Groenewg, DVM
Most pets have some degree of dental disease as early as age 2. Dental disease is the number 1 disease in dogs and cats, as it is so common in our pets. However, dental disease is often overlooked by owners, especially when it is at its mild stage.
How does dental disease occur? Disease starts by bacteria attaching to the edge of the enamel and forming a biofilm, or a microscopic meshwork of bacteria, within a day. This is called plaque. The tartar that you see on your pet’s teeth, is the secondary step of that plaque becoming calcified. Disease starts when that plaque gets up under the gums and creates an infection; seen as a slightly more red line along the edge of the gums where they meet the teeth. Left alone, this is a chronic infection in your pets mouth and will overtime cause worsening signs like bone and gum recession. This causes the roots of the tooth to be exposed. The roots are very sensitive and when exposed to disease, hot or cold temperatures, etc. It can be very painful for your pet.
This isn’t all. Studies have shown that even a mild chronic infection has influences on the rest of the body. Dental disease left alone can lead to other diseases such as liver disease, bone infections, heart disease, and arthritis, and has been shown to have a connection with Diabetes. Providing dental care to your pet can improve overall function of other organs and create an overall healthier animal.
It is important to note that small breeds are not the same as large breeds. Genetically, they are more predisposed to dental disease. At 1 year of age, many small breeds already have some bone loss from dental disease. It is important to get them in yearly for dental cleanings. Cats are also different than dogs and can have different disease processes in their mouths, so it is important not to forget about your cat’s mouth.
When you take your pet in to get their dental done, a deep cleaning is performed with an ultrasonic cleaner. This removes calculus and the plaque both above and below the gum line. It is important to get under the gum line to the tartar that we cannot see, as this is where dental disease starts.
You can learn what to expect for your pets dental consultation here and what a dental procedure looks like from start to finish here.