South Side Tails Blog


February 4th, 2014

Dental Disease: aka "why is my dogs breath SO bad?":
Written by Dr. Tanya Marrazzo

During an exam we often hear "oh my dogs teeth are great, he chews bones to keep them clean" or, "my pets teeth are fine, they don't seem to bother him and he eats well". Well the truth is that dog and cat teeth are similar to ours in that they should be brushed daily to prevent the accumulation of plaque and calculus. Plaque is the scummy stuff you feel on your own teeth a few hours after eating, and if you don't brush it off it will form a hard calculus in a few days that needs to be scaled off by your dentist. This same process happens with dogs and cats and is why it is so important to brush their teeth too! The more plaque and calculus that there is in the mouth, the more bacteria accumulates, and the worse the breath becomes. These bacteria can then be wicked up into the bloodstream through the inflamed gums and can contribute to heart and kidney disease in our pets.

During an annual exam the teeth are assessed for obvious fractures, root exposure, degree of gingival disease present, amount of calculus and plaque, and if possible any ulcers or masses in the mouth. However, because our pets don't generally obey the command "open wide and say 'ah' ", it is often recommended that we perform a dental assessment and cleaning under anesthesia. During the procedure the teeth are scaled, cleaned, and polished. Each tooth is assessed for root exposure and probed to find out if there are any pockets in the gums, or if the tooth is at all loose. Radiographs help us determine the health of the roots and bone of the jaw, they can also help us identify areas that may be infected or have cancer infiltrating them. It is also true that over 50% of dental disease occurs above the gum line and can only be detected with x-rays, so this is a very important part of the dental assessment.

The next time you are at your veterinarian ask them to show you how to brush your pet's teeth. It is often MUCH easier and less time consuming than most people expect. Done correctly it can be a stress- free part of your daily routine that not only helps your pets health
but also increases the bond you have together.

The following is an excellent video demonstrating how to brush your pet's teeth: