Pet’s Have Teeth Too!

Important dog teeth health

Dental care is an important factor of your pet’s overall health. Studies show that nearly 85% of dogs and cats over 3 years of age will have evidence of gingivitis. This disease is a progressive process with several noticeable stages. Initially, plaque (tartar) begins as a build up of a thin film of food particles and bacteria along the gum line. Continued plaque build up will lead to calculus (hardened plaque) formation which then can develop below the gum line causing “pockets” to form. Pockets allow more bacteria and plaque to gather and speed the worsening dental disease. These processes irritate the gums causing inflammation known as gingivitis. Gingivitis can further progress to end-stage periodontal disease including bone destruction, loss of tooth support and tooth loss. There are many opportunities to stop this progression before you reach irreversible periodontal disease, such as professional dental cleaning and various types of home care.

For more detail on the Dental Proceedure, please take a look at Blue Cross Dental Difference.

Grade One – Early GingivitisTeethToo2

  • Mild amount of plaque
  • Mild redness of the gums
  • Reversible

Grade Two- Advanced GingivitisTeethToo3

  • Sub gingival plaque (below the gum line)
  • Redness and edema of the gums
  • Reversible

Grade Three- Early PeriodontitisTeethToo4

  • Subgingival plaque (more than stage two)
  • Redness, edema, gums bleed with gentle probing, gum recession or hyperplasia
  • 10-30% loss of bone support
  • Irreversible

Grade Four – Established Periodontitis

  • Larger amounts of subgingival calculus
  • Severe inflammation, gum recession, loose teeth and/or missing teeth, pus, gums bleed easily, deep pockets
  • Over 30% bone loss
  • Irreversible

Relationship with Systemic (whole body) Health

Studies in people suggest that periodontal disease can be the cause of significant systemic inflammation, either by contributing to or causing a disease process elsewhere in the body; there are negative effects of periodontal disease on the body other than just in the mouth. It is important to understand the disease gets worse every day if not treated. Depending on the severity of periodontal disease, a pet may never have a normal mouth or a normal set of teeth. We can make the mouth as healthy as it can be, and from there, we are in a maintenance stage. Just as in human medicine, preventative medicine is more cost effective and better then reactive medicine.

Predisposing Factors

Numerous factors play a role in the formation of plaque, calculus and the development of periodontal disease. These include:

  • Age and general health status
  • Diet and chewing behavior
  • Breed, genetics, and tooth alignment
  • Grooming habits
  • Home care
  • Mouth environment

Age and Health Status: Periodontal disease more commonly affects older animals and those with severe systemic disease.

Diet and Chewing Behavior: Studies show that hard kibbles are slightly better than moist/canned foods at keeping plaque from accumulating on the teeth. Dogs that chew on various toys and treats may remove some of the plaque build-up.

Breed, Genetics, and Tooth Alignment: Small breed and brachycephalic dogs are at greater risk of periodontal disease because their teeth are often crowded together. This results in an increased accumulation of plaque because the normal cleansing mechanisms are hindered.

Grooming Habits: Hair accumulation and impaction around the tooth and in the gingival sulcus can hasten the development of plaque.

Home Care: Regular brushing of your dog’s teeth can greatly reduce the accumulation of plaque and development of calculus, thus reducing the risk of periodontal disease.

Mouth Environment: Dogs that open-mouth breathe tend to have a more tenacious plaque due to the dehydration of the oral cavity. In general, the more acidic the saliva the more rapid the build-up of plaque. The number and type of bacteria in the mouth influence the progression of periodontal disease.

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Home Oral Care

Look in your pet’s mouth once a month. Brushing is the “gold standard”, but not every animal will allow brushing. You may have a better chance of training dogs to accept having their teeth brushed than cats. Ideally, owners should mechanically disrupt plaque in more than one way, such as brushing regularly and utilizing dental chews or dental diets. Dog owners can brush the teeth. Cat owners can dip a cotton swab in water-based tuna juice and use it as a toothbrush everyday. Diets with mechanical action, chemical action, or both (such as IVD diets, Hill’s Prescription Diet t/d, or Eukanuba Dental Defense) are helpful. Rawhide chews impregnated with chlorhexidient can be effective if the dogs actually chew, not gulp, the rawhide. Dent Acetic wipes (Derma Pet) that contains cinnamon and sodium hexametaphosphate can be effective. Greenies can be effective for dogs and cats.

Brushing: A Step-By-Step Process

When learning about how to properly brush your pet’s teeth, break it down into steps so you are not overwhelmed. Owners should spend at least 10 to 15 seconds multiple times a day performing each of the following steps, and should only proceed to the next step when their pet accepts the previous step.

  1. Spend time getting your pet used to having its face and lips touched.
  2. Lift the pet’s lips.
  3. Open the mouth.
  4. Brush the pet’s teeth with your finger, paying close attention to the area where the gum and teeth come together.
  5. Put the toothpaste on your finger and use that to brush the pet’s teeth.
  6. Begin using an appropriate sized bristled toothbrush. Bristles are important because of the gingival sulcus (groove), which is less than 1 mm in cats and 2 to 3 mm in dogs. That is where the bacteria, plaque and calculus accumulate.

A New Option for Dog

A new vaccine has been introduced recently that has been shown to slow the progression of periodontal disease. The Porphyromonas bacterin vaccine helps protect against the three most common bacteria associated with infection and bone loss with progressive dental disease. The vaccine does not stop dental disease, but is another option to help slow progression of disease. Brushing, dental rinses and dental chews are still integral parts of the overall dental health care regimen. The vaccine series is comprised of two initial vaccines 3 weeks apart, followed by yearly booster vaccinations. The most common side effects of this vaccine are pain and lethargy that may last up to 4 days. As with any vaccine, allergic reactions are possible, but not known until after the vaccine is administered.

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