In addition to bad breath, poor oral health can contribute to damage to the teeth and gums as well as periodontal disease, which can negatively impact the kidney, liver, and heart muscle.
One common type of periodontal disease, known as gingivitis, causes inflammation of the gums around the teeth and can act as a wake-up call for owners to pay attention to their pet’s pearly whites before more serious conditions develop.
Dr. Bert Dodd, a clinical professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, says that gingivitis is very common, and every pet has it to some degree.
Until gingivitis reaches a more advanced stage, it can be difficult for pet owners to detect on their own and their animal may not exhibit any symptoms. As such, it’s important that pets are regularly checked for signs of gingivitis by their veterinarian.
Just like in humans, gingivitis is caused by plaque buildup on the tooth. This plaque is made of food, saliva, and bacteria. Through an interaction between these foreign bacteria and the body’s immune system, enzymes are released that break down the gum tissue, leading to inflammation.
At more advanced stages, this can lead to chronic pain and gum erosion.
“If left untreated, gingivitis leads to perodiontis, or inflammation and destruction of the hard tissues around the tooth,” said Dodd.
In addition to increasing the potential for heart, kidney, and liver disease, unchecked gingivitis may result in missing teeth and bone loss, in severe cases.
Luckily, gingivitis can be easily prevented through routine oral care habits. Dodd recommends brushing your pet’s teeth daily to remove harmful bacteria and prevent a buildup of plaque.
Although some pets may be resistant to having their teeth brushed at first, over time a regular routine will acclimate them to the practice, according to Dodd.
Special toothbrushes and toothpastes safe for pets can be purchased from most pet supply stores. When brushing a pet’s teeth, owners should never use human toothpaste, as this is toxic to pets.
Pet owners may wish to consult with their veterinarian for tips on brushing a pet’s teeth.
Dodd also recommends having your pet’s teeth professionally cleaned every year. Many clinics offer special deals on dental care for National Pet Dental Health month, so now is the perfect time to reach out to your veterinarian.
If a pet does develop gingivitis, it can be managed through teeth cleaning and debridement, or the surgical removal of damaged tissue, under anesthesia by a veterinarian.
Proper management of your pet’s oral health is very important for their well-being. With routine care, owners can prevent the development of serious oral health conditions and ensure the continued well-being of their furry friend.
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.