Healthy Teeth and Gums
Did you know that tooth and gum problems in dogs (and cats) are common, with around 85% of pets over three years of age suffering from some degree of dental disease, causing ill-health and pain?
A healthy mouth typically has bright white teeth and pink (or pigmented) gums. However, as your pet eats, food particles will naturally accumulate on the tooth surfaces and bacteria in the mouth digest the food particles to form plaque a sticky yellow film seen on the teeth. Over time, accumulation of plaque leads to inflammation and infection of the gums a condition called gingivitis. Affected gums are more reddened in appearance and these changes may also be associated with localised mineralisation of the plaque to form calculus (tartar).
If gingivitis (otherwise known as gum disease) is allowed to continue unchecked, it will in time progress to periodontitis. Here the problem penetrates below the gum line, destroying the tooth supporting structures and leading to infections deep in the tooth socket. If left untreated, this leads to tooth loosening and eventually tooth loss as the disease progresses.
Unfortunately once a tooth becomes loose, the problem is usually too advanced to save that tooth. However, if gum problems are identified at an earlier stage, a combination of a Scale and Polish and on-going home care can make a real difference to your pet’s oral health.
For information, cats may suffer from one or more tooth resorptive lesions usually found at or below the gum level. These are unique to cats and still not fully understood. Here the tooth is progressively destroyed leading to exposure of the nerve running down the centre of the tooth These can be extremely painful lesions, although cats will frequently show no obvious outward signs of tooth ache.
Your vet can advise on routine dental care for your pets to ensure healthy teeth and gums.
Chris Devlin BVSc MRCVS is a Vet and Partner at Hillside Veterinary Centre in Corfe Mullen. w: www.hillsidevets.co.uk. Follow us on Facebook.