OK, before we start to talk about dental health, let’s start with a little practical demonstration. Grab your nearest furry companion. Look closely at his face. Beware of being hypnotized by the cuteness. Now... can you see all of his teeth? The answer, of course, is almost always, “no”. And I think this is often the major problem with pet owners being able to tell whether their pet has dental disease. Out of sight, out of mind.
Untreated dental disease is increasingly being recognized as a major contributor to long-term health issues, including kidney and heart disease. Essentially, infections in the gums and teeth can result in bacteria entering the bloodstream and seeding disease in other parts of the body. This can lead to irreversible organ damage. Obviously, these problems become more common as our pets age, but maintaining good dental health throughout our pets’ lives can help prevent these old-age issues.
Now that we’re all agreed that untreated dental disease is a bad thing, what do you, the pet parent, need to do about it? A good starting point is making sure that your pet gets his teeth examined regularly by a veterinarian. (And, as your pet ages, “regularly” should become every six months instead of once a year.) A thorough oral exam by a vet is usually sufficient to ensure that your pet’s dental health is being well-monitored.
Based on what your vet sees, she may recommend that your pet have his teeth cleaned under anesthesia to remove accumulated plaque and tartar and to treat any gingivitis or periodontal disease that is present. Your vet can also guide you on important preventive measures like home tooth-brushing, specialty foods (e.g. Hill’s Prescription Diet t/d) and even therapeutic treats.