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How does Dental Disease affect my Pet?

Over 70% of cats and 80% of dogs who are 3 years of age or older suffer from significant dental disease.  Dental disease is characterised by the presence of plaque, calculus and gum infection, otherwise known as gingivitis. 

Plaque is a sticky, colorless biofilm of bacteria, sugars and protein that adheres to the teeth.  If plaque is not removed (e.g. by brushing teeth) it mineralises to form tartar (calculus) which is the visible yellow/brown accumulation on teeth. 

 

The bacteria in plaque/tartar then spread underneath the gumline and cause periodontal disease –this is destruction of the structures supporting the teeth -(bones, gums and ligaments) -causing pain, inflammation and eventually infection.  This is painful and irreversible changes occur if dental disease is not identified and treated early enough.

 

Dental disease is graded based on severity from 1-4 and without further preventative care, plaque will begin to reform on the tooth surface within 24 hours of a professional teeth clean (scale and polish).  It is for this reason that we recommend ongoing preventative dental care, with which we are happy to assist, and for which our dental program is designed.  Joining the dental program is free of charge.

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Top 5 Symptoms of Dental Disease

Smelly breath (halitosis)

  • While there are many causes of bad breath, dental disease is by far the most common

  • The smell may start quite subtly, but worsens over time

Reluctance to eat hard food/biscuits, or dropping food

  • Animals are experts at hiding pain and will often simply stop doing things that cause pain.  The most common symptom of dental pain is for animals to stop eating hard food, or to drop it after picking it up

Facial swelling over the cheek

  • Tooth root abscesses often occur on the large molars which can cause a firm, painful swelling underneath the eye

Drooling or red, painful gums

  • Gum infections and dental disease are painful, causing red gums and occasionally drooling

Weight loss

  • As above, animals stop doing things that cause pain, including eating if a particular tooth (or multiple teeth) are very painful.  This decrease in eating can be one cause of weight loss in our pets

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Why Can't my Pet's Teeth be Cleaned in the Consult
Awake?

While plaque and calculus can look unsightly, the real disease process is occurring below the gum line.

 

Removing the visible plaque or calculus on the surface of the tooth does not solve the problem because the plaque is still present in the periodontal sulcus (small pockets of gum that overly each tooth), you just can’t see it anymore.

 

The inflammation and infection may then spread to the tooth’s surrounding structures causing periodontitis.

 

We also find that if the job is done crudely without the correct ultrasonic descaler, damage to the surface of the tooth accelerates further deterioration of the tooth and allows the bacterial film to attach more readily. It is for this reason that each tooth is carefully polished with a dental polisher machine following its cleaning.

What are the Consequences of Dental Disease?

Apart from causing localised pain, inflammation and infection in the mouth, dental disease can have far reaching consequences for the rest of the body through periodontitis allowing access of bacteria into the bloodstream.

 

These include heart disease, diabetes, liver and kidney disease, and there is evidence to show that the systemic effects of untreated periodontal disease can shorten your pet's life.

What Should I Do Now?

Here at Vogue Vets & Wellness Centre we strive to provide the best quality health care for your pet. It is for this reason that we have dedicated a whole month of the year to dental disease. SEPTEMBER IS DENTAL MONTH. During the month of September we provide FREE dental health checks with our qualified nurses and offer discounted dental procedures. Please call us on 6323 2916 to book now, spots are filling fast!

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