Dental Care for Our Pets
The teeth that our cats and dogs have are very different looking than our teeth, but we do have something in common with their teeth.....plaque. Plaque is a soft, sticky, white material that adheres to the surface of the teeth right below the gum line and underneath the gum tissue. It is comprised of bacteria, saliva, cells from the lining of the mouth, and material from the food they eat. As it forms, plaque causes inflammation of the gum tissue which is referred to as gingivitis and is recognized by redness and swelling of the gums.
When the plaque remains on the teeth for more than 2-3 days, it starts to mineralize and becomes tartar. Tartar is hard like rock and has a light tan to dark brown color. This material is more than a cosmetic concern, for as it forms it finds its way under the gum line and starts to damage the attachments which hold the tooth root in the socket. These attachments are called periodontal ligaments and are found in the periodontal space. Tartar and infection can lead to permanent periodontal damage and is referred to as periodontitis. If this disease is left untreated, the tooth will become loose and infected, necessitating removal.
As we learn more about dental disease, we realize that routine professional dental cleaning can greatly reduce the damage and consequences which result from excess tartar. We now know that dental infections can affect other areas of the body. Heart valve damage, kidney disease, chronic liver inflammation or infection, brain and spinal cord disease have all been associated with patients who have chronic bacterial dental disease. Chronic dental infection and inflammation can also lead to chronic tonsillitis and oral cancer. So, keeping the teeth clean is not just for sweet breath and a pretty smile.
Let’s take care of our pet’s teeth so they can live a long, happy and healthy life.