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Dental Health Facts

Did you know that periodontal disease is the most commonly diagnosed condition in adult dogs and cats? If left untreated it can lead to serious systematic health issues. Like any other health condition, one of the most powerful weapons an owner has against the progression of the disease is awareness. Remaining diligent and recognizing changes in the appearance of your pet’s teeth can go a long way toward preventing more serious problems.

Chronic periodontal disease not only affects the structure and function of the teeth, but it can seriously affect overall health. Bacteria associated with severe periodontal disease can enter the bloodstream and serve as the source of infection for the organ, including the lungs, kidney or heart.

  • In the lungs bacteria involved with periodontal disease can be transported to the lungs simply through aspiration.
  • Problems with the heart, kidneys, immune system and other organs may occur if the bacteria in the mouth enter the circulatory system, or bloodstream.
  • A painful mouth can lead to lack of proper food intake and possible nutrition affecting the liver and intestines.
  • Improper nutrition combined with bacterial infections can reduce your pet’s ability to maintain his or her natural immunity and compromise the immune system.

Plaque is the primary cause of periodontal disease due to its large bacterial component. Left unchecked, plaque can soon cover the entire tooth surface. Regular brushing and mechanical “brushing” action of chewing certain dental diets and treats can help in plaque removal.

Calculus is mineralized plaque. It is deposited on the teeth in layers. Chewing action may remove some tartar, but most must be removed by professional scaling. Tartar is characterized by yellowing of the teeth and is often accompanied by bad breath.

Gingivitis occurs when the gums become inflamed. Typical signs of gingivitis are reddening, swelling, and bleeding of the gums as well as bad breath. The damage is usually reversible, but can lead to periodontitis. At this stage, the inflammation extends into the deeper connective tissue surrounding the teeth and can result in bone loss. The teeth become loose, painful and eventually fall out or need to be extracted. It can become extremely uncomfortable for pets to eat and in turn poor nutrition becomes a major concern.

Awareness is the greatest weapon you have in preventing serious dental issues with your pet. You know your pet best so any abnormal behavior, especially with eating and drinking should be reported to your veterinarian immediately.