Pets suffer from many of the same dental problems as humans, but since they can’t tell their owners about their dental issues, the owners must be both proactive and observant in protecting their pet from tooth loss, pain, and possible systemic infections and organ damage.
What types of dental issues do pets face?
While pets don’t suffer from tooth decay as their human counterparts, they do share the same types of gum disease brought about by the buildup of plaque and tartar that is formed by bacteria feeding on sugars in the mouth.
As the tartar starts to build up below the gum line, it creates pockets between the gums and teeth for more bacteria to enter, which eventually loosens the gums enough for teeth to loosen or fall out. If gum disease is left untreated, it could become systemic, infecting the major organs such as the kidneys and heart.
What are the signs of dental issues in pets?
Changes in Eating Habits
If your pet normally eats voraciously, but stops after a few bites or refuses to eat, it may be a sign of dental pain. If you hear a clicking sound or your pet tilts or shakes their head when attempting to chew, they may have a loose tooth that has turned sideways and is impaling their gums or cheek with every attempt at chewing.
Discoloration of Teeth and Gums
Tartar on pets’ teeth will appear as brown or tan areas and will appear near the gums. This may or may not indicate the presence of tartar below the gum line, where it is not visible but most harmful.
Periodontal (gum) disease will first appear as gingivitis, which is an early stage that is seen as a reddening of the gums.
When your pets’ breath suddenly smells unbearably bad, it may be an indication of gum disease.
How can pets’ dental health be maintained and treated?
Just like their owners, pets’ teeth need to be brushed daily. Unlike their owners, they can’t do it themselves, so the owners should develop a daily teeth brushing routine (from an early age if possible). It may not be easy with all pets, especially cats, but there are special chews and oral rinses available that can substitute for tooth brushing.
Pets should also have a regular dental checkup with a veterinarian to examine and clean the pets’ teeth, removing plaque and tartar and checking for signs of dental issues. X-rays may also be taken. Anything beyond a quick visual inspection will need to be done under sedation.
If problems are found, a veterinary dentist will be consulted for tooth extractions and treatment of gum disease. For advanced gum disease that has compromised the jawbone or caused other significant damage, a veterinary surgeon may be needed.
As with dental issues in humans, both preventive and professional care are essential in maintaining dental health in pets. If you’d like to get your pet examined for any dental issues, consider looking into your local animal hospital to make an appointment.