Looking after your pet's teeth & gums

Just as you look after your teeth to prevent plaque and dental disease, you also have to care for your pet's teeth too. Maintaining healthy gums is important. This is the starting point of any dental program. The gums protect the underlying tissues and bone that anchor and support the teeth in your pet's mouth.

What is gum disease?

Gum disease, or periodontal disease is caused by bacterial infection that builds up in a substance called plaque. Plaque is made up of food particles and saliva. It readily sticks to the tooth surface above and below the gum line and if not removed will calcify into tartar (or calculus). Over time the bacterial infection in tartar causes irreversible changes to occur. These include the destruction of supportive tissues and bone, resulting in red gums bad breath and loosening of teeth.

How do you know if your pet has gum disease?

More than 85% of dogs and cats over four years old have some form of periodontal disease. So look out for the signs such as:

  • Bad Breath
  • Loose teeth
  • Bleeding gums - Discoloured teeth
  • Receding gums
  • Reluctance to chew or eat

How do you prevent gum disease?

It's easy, good oral hygiene and plaque control. Encouraging your pet to chew on appropriate toys and chews with help stimulate saliva secretion, which will help combat plaque. Safe chewing options include Greenies, which are low in fat and easily digestible. Water additives such as Healthy Mouth will soften plaque, making it easier to be removed, and will also decrease the amount of bacteria in your pet's mouth. Using a special veterinary recommended diet such as Hills T/D will also help reduce the amount of plaque build up on your pet's teeth.

If your pet doesn't enjoy chewing, then daily brushing is the best option.

Remember gum disease is caused by plaque build up & infection. If you help to remove the plaque from your pet's teeth, you greatly improve the chances of a healthy mouth.

What should you do if you suspect Your pet has gum disease?

If you think your pet is showing the signs of gum disease it is important that treatment is started immediately before any irreversible changes occur.

Just contact one of our healthcare team members and make an appointment with your veterinarian for a dental check-up.

Treating gum disease involves thorough scaling and flushing to remove tartar, plaque and infection from above and below the gum line. The teeth are then polished to help reduce future plaque build up. Any loose or badly infected teeth will be removed. Antibiotics may be required for particularly severe cases. These procedures are carried out under a general anaesthetic. Local anaesthetic and pain relief are given when required.

Just like your own dentist we use specialised dental instruments including ultrasonic scaler, hand curettes, air driven drills and polishers. When required we also do dental restorations and endodontic procedures to save important teeth.

The progression of dental disease

Stage 1 Dental Condition
Plaque and minor calculus causing inflammation and swelling of the gums. Treatment involves a scale and polish.
Stage 2 Dental Condition
Grade 2 dental condition
Extensive plaque and calculus causing inflammation and swelling of the gums, some odour may be present and condition is painful. Treatment includes a more extensive scale and polish.
Stage 3 Dental Condition
Grade 3 dental condition
Extensive calculus, red and in some cases bleeding gums, gums recession and pocket formation, bad breath. Sore mouth affects eating and behaviour. Treatment may include extraction of severely affected teeth.
Stage 4 Dental Condition
Grade 4 dental condition
Chronic bacterial infection destroying the gum, tooth and bone. Treatment may involve extraction of several major teeth.

Treatment

Patients receive basic blood testing, intraoperative fluids, gas anaesthesia, and specialised equipment for anaesthetic monitoring. A qualified nursing staff will provide dedicated patient monitoring.

What if your pet has a broken tooth?

Teeth may be broken by chewing bones that are too large or are cut (allowing for a sharp ridge to chip against), by fighting and by accidents. A freshly broken tooth that exposes the nerve is painful and needs immediate attention. These teeth may be saved by doing a special filling within 24-36 hours, otherwise after several days the nerve becomes irreversibly damaged and then dies. This allows infection to enter the tooth and gain access to the root.

Once infection is present the tooth needs either extracting or root canal filling. A root canal can only be done in the first 36 hours. Left untreated these teeth can cause abscesses in the jaw bone and be a source of bacterial infection that can spread to the heart, kidneys and other major organs. Contact us immediately if you notice a broken tooth.

What if your pet has a tooth removed?

Where possible we always try to save teeth. It is in our pet's best interests to have a full dentition. However, if a tooth is too infected or loose or is going to be a source of future problems then we may need to remove it. Cats and dogs do very well after teeth have been extracted. In extreme cases, this can mean all of the teeth. Remember it is much better to have no tooth and a healthy gum than a retained tooth and ongoing infection.

What should you do after your pet has had their teeth cleaned?

Once the healing has occurred, your pet should be fed food that provides 'dental exercise' - that is - chewy, abrasive food as outlined earlier. You will also receive a complimentary dental check-up by one of our qualified veterinary nurses. We encourage you to obtain regular check-ups so your veterinarian can detect any cracks, chips, holes, loose teeth, gum ulcers, growths and infections.

Remember that plaque starts to develop 12 hours after brushing or a dental procedure at the vet, similar to people. Therefore if your pet will not easily undertake these home care recommendations, they could need repeat veterinary dental prophylaxis in the form of scale and polish as regularly as once or twice a year to continue to provide a healthy mouth and a healthy pet.

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Dental care - your pet's teeth and gums