Our pet’s teeth need care from very early on in life. Without daily dental care from the time they are puppies or kittens most pets will need their first veterinary cleaning procedure by three years of age.
What causes dental problems?
It’s quite simple really! Food debris, saliva and bacteria in the mouth causes a build- up of plaque on the teeth. This hardens into a dark coloured tartar which is unsightly and can lead to a painful gingivitis (inflammation of the gums).
Apart from natural tooth decay another cause of dental problems is fractured teeth in dogs due to biting down on hard bones or stones. This often causes fractures of the carnassial or ‘cheek teeth’ in dogs, with infection then tracking up the fracture line and causing an abscess on the cheek. The tooth will need to be removed and the infection treated with antibiotics.
Genetic problems may cause poor conformation of the jaw, with an ‘undershot’ or ‘overshot jaw’, crowding of teeth, displacement of teeth, delay in loss of ‘milk teeth’ etc. Veterinary assessment of your pet’s oral health and conformation is vital from the very first visit to your vet as many problems may be prevented.
What are the signs you need to look out for?
- Bad Breath
- Excessive drooling
- Difficulty Eating
- Red or Bleeding Gums
- Receding Gums
- Tooth Loss
What to do if your pet has the above symptoms?
Pay a visit to your vet! From 3 years on it is likely that your pet will need an annual professional cleaning under an anaesthetic. This involves the use of an ultrasonic de-scaler to remove hard tartar and then a polishing which will leave the teeth smooth and less susceptible to plaque build-up. Loose teeth may need to be extracted.
Your vet may refer you to a vet who specialises in dentistry for procedures like fillings, root canals etc. to save damaged or fractured teeth.
What can you do to care for your pet’s teeth?
- Get your pet’s teeth assessed by your vet at an early age and get regular check-ups.
- Milk teeth are usually replaced by adult teeth by six months of age. Your vet can check this at vaccination visits and may arrange to remove persisting milk teeth when your pet is being neutered.
- Use a toothbrush or finger brush and a dog friendly toothpaste to clean your pet’s teeth daily. (Available from your vet or pet shop).
- Feed a dry kibble food and dental friendly treats which can help floss between the teeth and freshen the breath.
- Arrange for a dental check-up at least once a year with your vet for young pets and more often for older pets. This can fit in with your annual vaccination and general health check.
- Fractures of teeth can be avoided by not giving your dog bones to chew, and by preventing them from chewing on stones etc.
- If your pet has bad breath get a check-up at your vet to check for dental decay or build-up of tartar.