By Dan Franklin, DVM

“Pets have teeth, too!”

While not a cautionary note about biting pets, it is a reminder about the connection between proper dental care and a healthy pet.

After all, healthy teeth and gums usually translate to a healthy, happy pet. That’s why it’s a great idea to schedule regular dental checkups for your Bubba or Jasmine.  Just imagine how you would feel if you never brushed/cleaned your teeth or visited your dentist!

Perhaps you’ve heard “ignore your teeth and they’ll go away”, well the same is true for our pets. Common dental problems if left unchecked can cause pain and discomfort, periodontal (gum) disease and tooth loss, etc., or even require surgical repair.

That’s right, for along with routine procedures and extractions, etc., endodontic and orthodontic procedures are also available for your cats and dogs! While some folks might shake their heads in disbelief about that, the truth is, maintaining a healthy, functioning mouth is important no matter the species.

Your devoted dog has 42 teeth and your favorite feline has 30–with most differing both in shape and function. Incisors grasp, cut and groom.  Canines (cats have them, too) tear and puncture.

Premolars grasp and shear while molars crush and grind–it is these teeth that are often affected by severe periodontal disease. So as a petparent,  recognizing the clinical signs and symptoms of pet oral health problems is important.

*Chronic baaaad breath.

*Oral pain–sensitivity around the mouth.

*Teeth grinding.

*Reluctance to eat.

*Difficulty eating/chewing regular diet.

*Drooling and/or pawing at mouth.

*Obvious tartar build-up.

*Inflamed or bleeding gums.

*Loose and/or missing teeth.

Often the first sign we notice is the baaad breath that results from an accumulation of bacteria in a pet’s mouth.   Like us, plaque plagues pets and can cause gingivitis.  Bacteria-laden plaque settles on teeth primarily at the gumline.

That bacteria can infect gum tissue and lead to not only disease but also tooth loss. If left untreated, the plaque calcifies into tartar in about 12-14 days, which is a precursor to periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease usually begins by involving only gum tissue, however as it progresses, periodontal ligament and alveolar bone can be destroyed by both the bacteria and your pet’s immune response to the plaque and tartar.

As if that’s not cause enough for petparent concern, there is the real threat of that oral bacteria regularly entering your pet’s entire circulatory system and exposing all of its organs to disease.

Now the simple declaration of “Pets have teeth, too!” takes on a whole new meaning with regard to their overall health. Actually, by age three 80% of dogs and 70% of cats are already exhibiting the clinical signs/symptoms of dental/gum disease.

That’s further proof of the value of regular veterinary (dental) checkups. Also, vastly improved techniques and equipment provide safe options for

scaling, polishing, extracting and radiographing teeth–all of which will enhance your pet’s well-being.

This preventive dentistry also involves some follow-up petparent care. Simply remember that brushing your pet’s teeth really does help!  (However, since human toothpastes can be irritating for cats and dogs, please use an antibacterial paste/gel that has been specifically formulated for them.)

So thanks to some consistent teamwork between you and your MAVH veterinarian, your pets can maintain healthy teeth and gums. That’s something we can all smile about!

By the way—PLAN NOW to take advantage of the annual MAVH 10% SAVINGS on thorough DENTAL CLEANINGS from January-March 2020!

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