Dental disease is the most common health problem for our canines and felines; yet it often goes untreated. Visibly, dental plaque or tartar is visible on the teeth above the gum line, as is gum inflammation or gingivitis. However, there can be marked pathology below the gum line that we are not able to identify by just looking at the teeth. Infection in the mouth can also spread into the bloodstream, and affect other organs in the body. Dental disease is also a source of pain.
There are several steps that you can take to decrease dental disease for your buddy. Feed a high quality diet. Many of the premium diets are designed to promote good oral hygiene. Routine brushing, ideally daily, is a very affective way to decrease tartar build up on the teeth. There are special kits that include a tooth brush, a finger brush, and some pet toothpaste. You don't want to use human toothpaste on your animals, as it can upset their stomachs, and the floride can be toxic. Multiple toys and chews are available that decrease tartar build up. Other options include rinses, mouth drops, and drops that can be added to the water.
Routine dental cleanings are also an important step. This is the best way to clean below the gum line for your cherished companion. It is best to do this at the earliest signs of dental disease, before any tooth root infection has occurred. When dental disease is addressed early on, this is the best time to save the teeth and reduces the number of teeth that need to be extracted. If teeth are severely infected, and attachments are loosed, then these teeth should be removed. For patients that are not able to undergo anesthesia, antibiotics can be given routinely; and oral care will be recommended.
I do not recommend non-anesthetic dental cleanings that are done in Pet stores. This is a medical procedure, that should be done under the guidance of a veterinarian. At most facilities, cleaning is not done below the gum line, the teeth are not probed or charted, often the teeth are not polished, antibiotics are not given following these cleanings, and dental disease that requires extractions or other treatment is not brought to the attention of the pet owner. In this manner, tartar can actually rapidly build up on your companion's teeth, infection continues below the gum line, dental pathology is neglected, and bacteria that is released into the body during the process is ignored. Currently the California Veterinary Medical Board is working on shutting down these practices because they provide more harm than good for our animals. Your veterinarian can design a dental care plan for your canine or feline.