Pet Dental Health 101

Your pet’s dental health is a vital part of their overall health and wellbeing. Without good oral hygiene, your furry pal can suffer silently in pain from inflamed, infected gums and tooth structures. Dedicate yourself to being your pet’s dental health champion by learning how periodontal disease occurs, and how you can manage the problem.

How many teeth do pets have?

In puppies, their deciduous teeth begin to erupt around 3 to 4 weeks of age, and they’ll typically have a full set of 28 puppy teeth by 3 to 5 months. Adult dogs have 42 permanent teeth, which begin to appear between 3 to 7 months. Cats, on the other hand, have fewer teeth than dogs or people. Kittens have 26 deciduous teeth, and 30 teeth when they reach adulthood.

What is periodontal disease in my pet?

Periodontal disease is the most common disease seen in pets. This progressive disease is caused by oral bacteria that damages the gums, bone, teeth, and supportive tooth structures. Shortly after your pet eats, sticky plaque begins to develop on the teeth as saliva, food particles, and bacteria come together. In 24 hours, plaque begins to harden and turns into cement-like tartar. Tartar serves as a place for bacteria to multiply, which leads to gingivitis and, eventually, periodontal disease.

How many pets have dental disease?

Recent studies have reported that close to 90% of all pets have some form of periodontal disease by 2 years of age, which is higher than previously reported. And, periodontal disease can go largely undiagnosed unless a comprehensive oral exam is performed under general anesthesia. An exam on an awake patient can miss many dental disease signs, because they are undetectable without full-mouth X-rays and examining the back of the mouth safely.

Why is dental hygiene so important to my pet’s overall health?

Although you may think that poor dental hygiene would only contribute to bad breath, every aspect of your pet’s life and overall health can be affected. Oral bacteria from plaque and tartar can leach into the bloodstream through inflamed gums, travel to the heart valves and kidneys, and cause serious disease. Reducing the amount of plaque and tartar on your pet’s teeth prevents the bacterial load from becoming so overwhelming that it attacks the organs.

How can I take care of my pet’s oral health at home?

One of the most important things you can do to keep your pet’s teeth and mouth healthy and disease-free is regular at-home dental care. A home dental care regimen can prevent pain, infection, and tooth loss, and can be accomplished in a few minutes per day. Here are some ways to get started with your pet’s dental care program:

  • Brush your pet’s teeth daily — Daily toothbrushing is the gold standard of at-home dental care for pets. Choose a toothpaste formulated for pets, to ensure the paste is fluoride-free, and opt for a smaller child’s toothbrush or finger brush.
  • Offer your pet approved dental treats and chews — Products accepted by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) have been proven to slow plaque and tartar accumulation. Not all dental products hold this claim, so look for the VOHC seal of acceptance when purchasing your pet’s treats and chews.
  • Avoid toys and chews that are too hard for your pet’s teeth — Bones, antlers, and other hard chew toys may provide long-lasting entertainment, but they can easily fracture your pet’s teeth. Stick to chews that do not hurt when you bang the toy against your knee.
  • Use water and food additives for extra oral health benefits — Some pets simply will not accept toothbrushing, but will tolerate food and water additives. These products often have beneficial enzymes that combat plaque formation.
  • Switch to a dental health diet if your pet’s oral health is particularly poor — Certain breeds, like Yorkies, dachshunds, and Chihuahuas, are genetically predisposed to poor dental health. These breeds—or other pets who have poor oral health—may benefit from a prescription dental health diet.

What else can I do to keep my pet’s teeth clean?

In addition to your daily at-home dental care program for your pet, rely on your Kennedy Heights Animal and Bird Hospital team for assistance. Routine oral exams can detect some dental health problems, while regular veterinary dental cleanings ensure every trace of plaque and tartar are removed from your pet’s teeth. Partnering with your veterinarian ensures your pet’s teeth are cleaned in areas that cannot be reached through toothbrushing alone, such as below the gum line. Additionally, dental X-rays can spot periodontal problems that hide beneath the surface that may be causing your pet pain.

Your pet’s dental health is a critical part of their overall health, and affects every part of their body. Contact our Kennedy Heights Animal and Bird Hospital team to schedule your four-legged friend’s oral health exam and cleaning.