Jan 31 2014

Pet Dental Health



The American Veterinary Dental Society (AVDS) and the American Veterinary Medical Association report that more than 85% of family dogs and 70% of family cats exhibit signs of oral disease by the time they are three years old.  Contrary to popular belief amongst many pet owners, dogs and cats should not have “dog breath” or “cat breath.”.  Bad breath is just one of the signs that your pet’s oral health is in need of attention.  Other signs are yellowing or brown teeth, bleeding gums and loose or lost teeth. Imagine you had these same symptoms; you would certainly be seeking dental care from your dentist.

No longer a nuance in the veterinary medical field, we now routinely assess dental health during annual preventive health visits at our hospital.  Let’s examine why.  Epidemiological studies indicate increased prevalence with age (Kortegaard et al, 2008) and high occurrence in small or toy breeds (Harvey et al, 1994).  Although dental plague is the primary cause of periodontal disease, several other factors contribute to dental plague accumulation such as overcrowding when upper and lower teeth are not properly aligned,  soft food and the absence of oral hygiene.  Plague accumulation leads to gingivitis.

This research over the past twenty years has led veterinarians to realize the  impact of a pet’s oral health on overall health as well as recognize that advances in prevention and treatment  make a pet’s suffering from poor dental health unnecessary.  Periodontal disease is the most frequent cause of tooth loss in adult dogs and humans and trigger concern for serious systemic health concerns.  Humans and animals are so linked in this regard that clinician scientists in human medicine relay on dog periodontal disease models to better understand the disease and develop more effective treatment options.

During your pet’s examination, the doctor will assign a  Dental Grade which is the rating we use to evaluate the condition of each pet’s teeth. The dental grade gives a veterinary professional a good snap shot of the dental health of your pet and may hold the key to unlock the cause of other illnesses or diseases.  Not that many years ago, brushing a pet’s teeth might have seemed silly or having a pet’s teeth professionally cleaned might have seemed excessive.  Now it is considered part of the mainstream of routine care.  Besides the health benefits associated with dental cleaning, pet owners appreciate that it is cost effective to treat the disease early, at a grade 2, as the oral health treatment gets more costly with the deterioration of oral health. The higher grades generally signify that disease has progressed and now tooth extraction is necessary.  Early detection, diagnosis and treatment are essential in control of periodontal disease  (Alburquerue et al 2012).  A pet tooth brush and tube of pet tooth paste can cost as little as $15 whereas ignoring your pet’s oral health can cost hundreds!!  Brushing your pet’s teeth daily is the gold standard of basic home preventive dental care for pets.

How can you take a bite out of dental disease?  Be proactive about prevention. Not only brush your pet’s teeth, but  avoid toys/objects that can break teeth when chewed and  always have an annual physical with an oral examination by a veterinarian.  If you feel uneasy about starting a tooth brushing routine with your pet, just ask us. We love talking about dental health and teaching pet owners the Do’s and Don’ts!


Signs of oral disease. Some of them might surprise you:

  • bad breath
  • redness/bleeding along the gum line
  • drooling
  • difficulty chewing
  • avoidance of toys or eating hard food or treats
  • pawing at the mouth
  • loose or missing teeth
  • facial swelling
  • nasal discharge and
  • gum recession

Take your pet to your veterinarian for an oral examination if you see any of these signs even if he/she is not yet due for an annual physical exam.

Do make your pet’s annual physical exam a high priority.  Remember, that the annual assessment can catch oral disease early and early detection of any health risk is the best medicine.  Treatment  plans can intervene quickly with remarkable results for your pet including elimination of oral pain, reduction of oral disease, reduction of organ damage due to oral bacteria and a happier pet that eats, plays and loves you even more.  Give your pets a reason to smile!specials

Dental Health Booklet

Celebrate Your Pet’s Smile, while Giving Yourself Something To Smile About

Schedule your pet’s dental today!  978.373.4422


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