Pet Oral Health: More Than Just A “Dental”

Submitted By: Dr. Veja Tillman


Did you know that most dogs develop some degree of periodontal disease by the time they are 3 years old? Oral health is as important in dogs and cats as it is in us. Unfortunately, many pet parents don’t realize that a big part of their pet’s wellness is their oral health

How do you know that your pet needs to have a complete oral assessment and treatment (cleaning)?

Bad breath is usually the first indicator that your pet should visit the vet. Other signs to look for include:

  • Swollen or bleeding gums/ Seeing blood on toys
  • Difficulty eating or changes in eating habits
  • Yellow or brown teeth/ Stained teeth
  • Growths on the gums or in the mouth
  • Excessive drooling or pawing at their mouth
  • Broken or worn teeth

Why should you have your pet’s teeth cleaned?

Oral health requires periodic professional cleaning and treatment regardless of whether the mouth belongs to a person, a dog, a cat, or any other animal. The bacteria of the mouth can spread to other areas of the body through the bloodstream. Oral disease allows the bacteria to spread more easily into the blood stream leading to infection in the heart, liver, kidney or virtually anywhere the bloodstream carries them.

Home care of the teeth is never perfect and periodically the mouth must be evaluated, tartar must be properly removed and the tooth surface completely polished and disinfected.

What is included in a Professional Dental Cleaning?

The professional cleaning performed at the veterinarian’s office is similar to what a person receives at their dentist’s office. Tartar is removed from the surface of the tooth and from the gum line with specific instruments. The roots are planed, meaning tartar is scraped from below the gum line until the roots are smooth again.

Next, periodontal sockets are probed and measured to assess the degree of periodontal disease. The enamel is polished to remove any unevenness left by tartar removal and the mouth is disinfected and possibly treated with a fluoride sealer or plaque repellent. Finally, professional notes are taken on a dental chart, noting abnormalities on each of a dog’s 42 teeth or a cat’s 30 teeth.

How can I keep my pet’s teeth healthy?

Schedule regular oral health assessments (General Oral Exam) with your veterinarian (at least every 6 to 12 months). Your veterinarian can discuss with you any problems areas or concerns for your pet’s oral health. Periodic professional Dental Cleaning and Treatment under general anesthesia. General anesthesia is required to properly and completely assess oral health, clean and treat your pet’s teeth.

Regular brushing of the teeth is the single most effective thing that you can do to maintain your pets oral health in between professional dental cleanings. Talk with your veterinarian to get recommendations for nutrition, treats or dental products for your pet.

February is National Pet Dental Month!

Contact your veterinarian today to schedule a Complete Oral Health Assessment, Dental Cleaning and to discuss tooth brushing and dental products and diets.

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