Pet Dental Care: Why You Should Care

The dental proverb, “Be true to your teeth or they will be false to you,” is true not only for humans, but for pets as well. Unfortunately, false teeth for dogs and cats aren’t an option, at least not yet.

That’s just one of the reasons proper dental care is important for your dog or cat. Pets need strong, healthy teeth for chewing, grooming and enjoying daily activities like fetching a stick or picking up a ball.

Even more important to note, pets need good teeth because dental disease, left untreated, can be life threatening. Bacteria from tooth decay and gum disease can work their way into your pet’s bloodstream and produce infection in the heart, lungs and other parts of the body.

How Dental Disease Develops

Veterinarians estimate that 85 to 90 percent of all dogs and cats more than six years old suffer from some tooth decay and gum disease.

Just like in humans, deposits of plaque build up on their teeth. Plaque is an accumulation of old cells, saliva and bacteria.

Left on the teeth, plaque hardens and turns into tartar, which can cause the gums to become inflamed (gingivitis) and break down ligaments that connect teeth with bone and gum tissue (periodontis). Bad breath (halitosis) is a noticeable side effect.

Advanced dental disease can lead to broken teeth, infected abscesses, shifting teeth, and deep infection of the jaw bone, called osteomyelitis

Keeping Your Pet’s Smile Bright

The keys to preventing such problems are a dry, hard nutritional diet and regular veterinary checkups. For starters, you should brush your pet’s teeth. But don’t run to the medicine cabinet for a tube of the family’s toothpaste. The high sodium content of human toothpastes makes them unsafe for pets, but several veterinary brands are available.

In addition, you can do the following to help ensure that your pet’s teeth stay healthy.

  • Feed your pet hard food; give it rawhide chews or lambs wool toys
  • Look inside your pet’s mouth from time to time. Do you see red gums? Bad breath? Yellow or brown teeth? These conditions indicate problems, and should be examined by your veterinarian, immediately.
  • Bring your pet in for annual veterinary exam. We always check your pet’s teeth during its vaccination examination.
  • Have your pet’s teeth cleaned and polished at least once a year. Routine cleaning and polishing will help maintain healthy teeth. In more advanced dental disease cases, more frequent cleaning may be necessary.

Taking good care of your pet’s teeth isn’t frivolous or extravagant. It’s an important part of overall health maintenance that will ensure a long, happy and healthy life for your cat or dog.