No truer statement has ever been made…except when your puppy’s breath is bad. What is there to do about bad breath and what does it mean? Bad breath is a sign of dental disease. It is hard to recognize dental disease and bad breath is not the only sign. Here are some signs to look for when determining dental disease in your pet:
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- Difficulty eating or not wanting to eat
- Plaque build-up
- Tarter build-up
- Gingivitis (inflammation of the gum line)
Now that you know the signs, let’s discuss the causes of dental disease. There are a variety of factors which include food, bacteria, and saliva that mix together and cause plaque. Plaque will develop into tarter and then can progress into severe periodontal disease (characterized by gingivitis and a receding gum line).
Plaque, tarter, and periodontal disease will not go away without intervention. There are many places in this pathway to intervene and decrease the risk of severe dental disease. There are many different types of chews marketed for keeping plaque off your pet’s teeth. Most work well for a short period of time. Another option is an oral rinse which helps control bacterial overgrowth in the mouth. Again, this works well for a short period of time. The last option for you to do at home is to brush your pet’s teeth. Remember it is good to chew, better to rinse, and best to brush. In early stages of plaque build-up, brushing their teeth can increase the amount of time it takes tarter to develop and therefore keeping your pet healthy for longer. But what is there to do when the tarter has set in and brushing your pet’s teeth just isn’t enough anymore? That’s where a dental cleaning is necessary. A dental cleaning for a dog is identical to a dental cleaning in humans (in regards to the method of removing plaque and tarter). Their teeth are scaled with an ultrasonic scaler to remove the plaque and tarter-build-up. They are then polished. The difference between our dental cleanings and our pet’s dental cleanings is that our pets do need to be under anesthesia. We will sit still in a dental chair and allow a hygienist to clean our teeth (well most of us anyway), however, a pet is not usually going to be still when they are hearing the noise of the scaler. They also need to have an endotracheal tube in place to keep the water used to clean their teeth from getting into their lungs. The article below discusses why non-anesthesia dental cleanings are not recommended.
So what are the repercussions for not taking good care of your pet’s teeth? Just like us, a pet can have abscessed teeth (infected tooth roots) which can also extend into the sinuses depending on the tooth affected. Infected tooth roots can also affect the bone in your pet’s mouth. But more severe problems can occur. Bacteria are a natural inhabitant of your pet’s mouth (as well as ours) and when dental disease is bad, that bacteria can enter the bloodstream through unhealthy gums and settle in distant organs. The distant organs in which bacteria likes to settle are the heart, liver, and kidneys (though it will settle anywhere) causing irreversible damage.
Here are videos showing how to brush your pet’s teeth.