Does your dog or cat have dental disease? If your pet is over the age of two, then the answer is highly likely.
Periodontal disease is the most commonly diagnosed disease in cats and dogs. Veterinary dentists will tell you, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats over the age of two have some form of periodontal disease.
Plaque and tartar accumulate on your pet's teeth just like it does on humans. By their second birthday, your dog or cat is basically fully grown. The majority of adult pets have never had their teeth brushed.
But her teeth look fine! They might look clean but plaque forms on a pet's teeth within hours of eating and it isn't always obvious to the naked eye. Over several days plaque combines with minerals to harden into tartar. Over weeks and months, tartar builds into a thick brown and yellow stain. This brown tarter is often referred to as "yuck mouth" or the technical term is "periodontal disease". With routine care and attention periodontal disease is controllable and even preventable.
Evaluating you pet's teeth and gums begins with a visual inspection. You can check for yourself by lifting your cat or dog's lip up to view back molars where the worst buildup occurs.
If your vet is conducting a visual exam, she will not only check for tartar but she will also check for anomalies (like extra or missing teeth), and for gum inflammation. A vet also checks for any unusual masses. (For example, oral melanomas can be discovered during routine exams).
Even if you regularly brush your pet's teeth, your dog or cat will eventually need a full cleaning by a veterinarian. Dental cleaning often includes x-rays of the mouth. X-rays will show any bone loss and infections of the root.
Cats can suffer from a unique condition that makes x-rays even more crucial. Three out of four cats, over the age of five, suffer from tooth resorption -- a painful condition where the body reabsorbs the protective dentin covering a tooth leaving the root exposed. The cause is unknown and it can affect one or many teeth. The worst part is the entire infection may be below the gum line resulting a normal-looking crown but with a terribly painful root. The only treatment at that point is extraction of the affected tooth. It's very likely that the most observant pet parents won't see any evidence of this problem. Scary, right?
Anesthesia-free dentistry has become popular over the years but some veterinarians caution its limitations. Most vets prefer to anesthetize because that is the only way a Vet can provide a thorough examination and clean underneath the gum line where much of the bacteria and plaque reside. Teeth can also be extracted if necessary. If you do choose the anesthesia-free dentistry option, just understand that while it removes tartar and plaque from the visible surface of the tooth, it does not provide the health benefits that a full cleaning under anesthesia would.
By making just a couple of improvements to your care regimen, you could help to add years to your pet's lifetime.