As humans, we brush our teeth twice daily and get annual dental cleanings to keep our smiles looking bright and to prevent dental disease. But, what about ours pets?Often we think of "dog breath" as being something we just have to deal with. The truth is, "dog breath" is commonly secondary to dental and gum disease. Tartar and calculus is comprised of a layer of food and bacteria that combines with calcium in the saliva to form a hard, mineralized layer covering the teeth. The combination of tartar/calculus and gingivitis is termed periodontal disease. This compromises the tooth by degrading the ligament that holds the tooth in the mouth. In humans, it is noted by the CDC Division of Oral Health that oral health is linked to systemic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Veterinary studies have found that advanced periodontal disease leads to tooth loss, bad breath, heart disease, kidney disease and liver disease.
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What can we do to remedy existing periodontal disease? The answer: anesthetized dental cleanings with dental radiographs (x-rays). Anesthetized dental cleanings allow veterinary professionals to remove the built up tartar and calculus, commonly using an ultrasonic scaler, from the tooth and below the gum line. Radiographs allow us to see if there is disease below the gum line such as a fracture, an abscess, congenital abnormality, or painful resorptive lesions. This is imperative to make the decision to leave or remove a tooth due to disease or to prevent advanced disease. Anesthetized dental cleanings are needed periodically and your veterinarian will discuss when a cleaning is needed. Small dogs are more prone to the rapid development of plaque and tartar and will frequently require annual or bi-annual cleanings to keep their mouths in tip top shape. Some cats may have more gingivitis secondary to the bacteria in the tartar which will warrant more frequent dental cleanings to avoid pain and tooth loss. Genetics can play a factor in how quickly dental disease will form and how much secondary gingivitis will develop.