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More Than a Pretty Smile

What is Dental Disease?

Dental disease is one of the most common diseases seen in dogs.   Dirty teeth are more than just a cosmetic issue.   Although dogs and cats don’t tend to get cavities like we do, they get plaque and tartar on their teeth.  Plaque is actually a biofilm that develops on teeth as a result of bacterial growth.  As time progresses, the plaque starts to mineralize forming tartar.  As more plaque and tartar accumulate the gums get more and more infected and inflamed.  Once tartar develops, it is very difficult to remove and requires the use of special dentistry instruments.   Plaque and tartar is very irritating to the surrounding gums and causes the tissue around the tooth to become infected and inflamed (called periodontal disease).   Periodontal disease can be very painful, and left untreated can result in teeth falling out.

What are the signs of dental disease?

The most common sign is foul breath.  Other signs of dental disease include a decreased appetite, refusal to eat hard food, losing interest in bones or favorite toys.  Other signs may be more vague.  For example, dental pain can cause a change in the mood.  Your dog or cat may act more “grumpy.”

Does dental disease seriously affect my pets’ health?

Yes! Each gram of tartar can have over a billion bacteria!  The mouth has an excellent blood supply, which means the bacteria is picked up in the blood.   The blood then carries the bacteria to important organs like the liver, kidneys, and heart.   Studies have shown that dogs and cats with bad teeth (severe periodontal disease) have more damage in their liver, kidneys, and heart on a microscopic level.   So a pretty smile for your pets can mean a longer, healthier life!

How do we treat and manage dental disease? 

There are many things you can do to prevent the accumulation of plaque and tartar on your pets’ teeth.  Brushing is the best thing you can do, but if this doesn’t suit your lifestyle there are still products that help.  When you pick out treats for your pet, we recommend picking a treat that is on the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s list of approved dental products.  These products have undergone controlled clinical trials and have been shown to help prevent tartar accumulation.  We carry a number of these products here  at My Zoo Animal Hospital.

Once tartar develops on the teeth, it is strongly adhered to the surface of the tooth.  At this point, we recommend a dental cleaning.  A thorough dental cleaning involves anesthetizing the dog or cat, performing a thorough dental exam, using an ultrasonic scaler and hand scales to remove tartar and plaque, and polishing the teeth.  For information on why this is performed under anesthesia see the American Veterinary Dental College Website:

If you think your dog has dental disease, please schedule an appointment with one of the vets at My Zoo Animal Hospital for an examination and specific recommendations.

We offer 20% off dental cleanings during the month of January.  Schedule your pet’s cleaning early since the schedule books up fast!

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