How to prevent Dental Disease

How common is dental disease in cats and dogs?

Dental disease is the most common disease that we see in our pets.

What is dental disease?

Dental disease follows a progressive course. The teeth surface is constantly exposed to saliva and bacteria in the mouth. Teeth are also exposed to food particles during eating. Particles of food that remain in the mouth are digested by bacteria, producing a biofilm, a soft white cheesy-like substance called plaque. If this builds up on teeth it will form tartar, a hard stone-like substance. Inflammation of the gums, called gingivitis, will develop as a result of plaque and tartar accumulation.

There are 4 stages of dental disease
  • STAGE 1 (gingivitis)
    Inflammation and possible swelling of the gum line. Plaque is seen covering the teeth surface.
  • STAGE 2 (early periodontitis)
    The gum bleeds when prodded. In this state it will provide less support to the tooth. The mouth will be painful and odour begins to be noticeable.
  • STAGE 3 (established periodontitis)
    The gum recedes away from the tooth, providing even less support. The mouth is very sore which can affect eating and behaviour. Bad breath is present.
  • STAGE 4 (advanced periodontitis)
    Chronic bacterial infection is destroying the gum, tooth and surrounding bone. Bacteria can spread throughout the body via the blood and may damage the kidneys, liver and heart.
Are all animals equally at risk to dental disease?

Some animals appear to be more at risk than others. This difference if often a reflection of what they eat and how much food is left in the pet’s mouth after eating. Longer nosed breeds and animals that do a lot of chewing are least at risk.

What should we do to check our pet’s teeth?

We advise that your pet’s teeth are regularly checked. Do this by gently lifting the lips to examine the teeth and gums. The teeth should be shiny and white and the gums a pale pink colour. You should detect very little dental odour. We recommend you have your pet’s teeth checked every six months. The dental clinics at Oakhill Vet Group are FREE of charge!

How should we look after our pet’s teeth?

There are many things that you can do to help:

  • Brushing
    Just like us, brushing teeth is the gold standard for keeping dog’s and cat’s teeth clean and healthy. Obviously this is easier with some pets than others. Use brushes and toothpastes which are specifically formulated for pets. Brushes need to be softer and fluoride, found in human toothpaste will not be metabolised by your pet and may cause irritation to the liver. Please ask a member of the Oakhill Team to help you get started.
  • Chewing
    The more your pet chews the better. Animals that receive a dry diet usually have better teeth than those on a tinned diet. Specialist dental foods are available which are designed to help rub the plaque off. Giving raw-hide or dental chews is also a good idea. These stimulate saliva which protects the teeth as well as physically rubbing the teeth and cleaning them. Chewing also helps to ‘exercise’ the periodontal ligament. This ligament surrounds the tooth in the socket and helps to hold it in place. Special diets are available. These are designed to rub the plaque off.
  • Antibacterial gels and wipes
    These can be put in your pet’s mouth after eating. This is the animal equivalent to mouth wash and is a good second best to washing. It is important to only use mouth gels and washes designed specifically for animals.
  • Antibacterial water additives
    A small amount of these are added to your pet’s water to act as a mouth wash every time they drink.
  • Advanced dental care
    Sometimes dental disease is too advanced for brushing and the other care managements above. In these cases a dental de-scale and polish is required, under general anaesthesia. In some situations badly diseased or damaged teeth may require removal.

At Oakhill Vet Group cats and dogs requiring dental attention under general anaesthesia will have all teeth de-scaled and polished and charted, just like a typical visit to a human dentist. A treatment plan can then be implemented focussing specifically on your pet. We dispense a FREE antibacterial water additive post operatively and follow up each case with a FREE dental consultation to ensure the ongoing care of your pet’s teeth.