February is National Pet Dental Health Month

Knowing basic dental anatomy is key in understanding your pets’ dental health. When we look into the mouth we see the teeth and gums. The white of the teeth we see is known as the crown of the tooth. The root of the tooth lies below the gumline. Every tooth lies in a single socket attached to bone by ligaments. Each tooth is then supplied with nutrients from blood vessels that run up inside the center of the tooth. This is why a full dental exam is important. It includes dental radiographs which allow the root of the tooth, bone, and the inside of the tooth to be evaluated appropriately.

Dogs have approximately 42 permanent adult teeth and cats have approximately 30 permanent adult teeth that should erupt starting at 6 months of age with full eruption around 8 months. Any baby teeth remaining in the mouth at that time are known as persistent teeth. Having extra-retained teeth in your pet’s mouth can lead to over crowding and misalignment causing increased risk of oral infection, damage to the soft tissue structures in the mouth, and sensitivity. To avoid this, your veterinarian will recommend having these teeth removed. This can be done at the same time as when your pet is spayed or neutered, or through a dental cleaning under general anesthesia.

Everyday our pet’s teeth are covered in saliva, bacteria, food particles and other foreign material. If this material (plaque) sits on the teeth without being cleaned away, it eventually mineralizes into tartar (calculus). Plaque is easily removed by routine brushing. Once tartar occurs, the debris needs to be removed by appropriate dental instruments.

By three years of age approximately 85% of pets have periodontal disease which is disease occurring around the outside of the tooth. Tartar and bacteria lead to inflammation of the gums around the teeth (gingivitis). Progress of inflammation can lead to destroying the attachment of the tooth and the surrounding jawbone known as periodontal disease. Gingivitis can be reversible if treated, if left untreated, irreversible damage can occur leading to mobile teeth, infection around the tooth and also tooth loss. Further progression can even impact the rest of the body effecting distant organs such as the heart liver and kidneys. Thus having a clean healthy mouth will have a positive impact on the rest of your pet’s body.

Teeth cleaning, both at home and professionally are ways to provide the best care for your pet’s dental health. Ways to care for your pet’s teeth include routine brushing, proper dental chews and dental diets. Brushing three times a week is adequate to maintain healthy teeth. Chewing on a proper dental chew daily can reduce plaque and tartar up to 69%. It is important to use a specific pet toothbrush, toothpaste and dental products which have the VOCH Seal of approval (Veterinary Oral Heath council). Virbac C.E.T. Chews are great because they have been clinically proven to help control tartar. Cow hooves, bone and pig ears are not recommend because they can be too hard and fracture your pet’s teeth, as well as hold bacterial contaminants.

Dental management is an important factor in you pets’ heath and quality of life. Routine dental check ups are the perfect way to assess your pet’s dental health. Your primary care veterinarian can you find the best plan for pet’s dental care including oral exams and full routine dental cleanings. ©

By Dr. Nicole McDonagh, DVM • Town Center Animal Hospital • www.towncentervet.com