Proper dental hygiene is a vital part of your pet’s overall health care, as oral bacteria can infect not only her mouth, but also her entire body. By staying on top of your furry friend’s dental hygiene through at-home and routine veterinary care, you can prevent many dental issues. Periodic oral exams and toothbrushing at home, combined with regular dental-wellness visits with our team, will go a long way toward protecting your pet from the following periodontal problems.
#1: Periodontal disease
Up to 85% of pets have some form of periodontal disease by age 3, making it one of the most common conditions we see, although it can be easily prevented through routine care. If your pet hasn’t had her teeth brushed properly for more than three years, you’re likely to notice one or more of these dental-disease signs:
- Brown or yellow tartar accumulation
- Cracked, broken, loose, or missing teeth
- Bleeding gums
- Receding gums
- Abscessed teeth
- Lumps or bumps around the teeth, on the tongue, or on the muzzle under the eyes
- Pawing at the mouth
- Chewing on one side of the mouth
- Dropping food when eating
You can guard your pet against painful periodontal disease by beginning a comprehensive dental-care regimen consisting of at-home and professional care.
#2: Stomatitis in cats
Stomatitis, an inflammation of the oral cavity, can occur anywhere inside your pet’s mouth. Inflammation typically first affects the gingiva, and then spreads to the back of the mouth, but can attack anywhere.
While the exact cause of this disease is still unknown, cats with a persistent feline calicivirus infection seem more predisposed to developing stomatitis. Oddly enough, the amount of plaque and tartar present on a cat’s teeth is not proportionate to the inflammation level experienced during stomatitis. A common theory is that the cat’s immune system is responding too aggressively to bacterial presence in these cases.
Stomatitis is extremely painful, causing cats to drool excessively, paw at their mouths, and have difficulty eating. Stomatitis treatment involves managing the inflammation and pain through anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, steroids, routine dental cleanings, and, occasionally, tooth extraction to remove the bacterial source.
#3: Fractured teeth in dogs and cats
While fractured teeth are common in dogs who are powerful chewers, they are less common in cats. Dogs who chew on rocks, metal cages, antlers, or bones are prone to fractures, primarily affecting the canines and large carnassial teeth on the maxilla. Cats’ tooth fractures are usually because of weakened enamel, or trauma, such as being hit by a car. In both species, broken teeth are individually assessed to determine whether extraction is necessary or the tooth can be saved. A tooth that has fractured through to the pulp cavity, affecting the nerve and blood supply, likely needs extraction, although specialty dental surgery may restore the tooth’s function and alleviate the pain.
#4: Resorptive lesions in cats
Another extremely painful condition that cats experience involves erosions in the teeth, or feline resorptive lesions. Common in young and old cats, more than 70% of cats aged 5 or older are estimated to have at least one resorptive lesion. These lesions appear without cause, commonly affecting the neck of the tooth around the gumline, but can also appear below the gumline. During periodontal probing, lesions will appear as small amounts of gum tissue growing out of the tooth, and will be highly sensitive to the touch, despite the aid of general anesthesia.
If resorptive lesions are unattended or affected teeth not removed, the tooth will continue to erode, eventually fracturing at the crown and leaving the roots behind, creating a breeding ground for infection and pain. Since resorptive lesions are not caused by decay, like cavities, filling them is unsuccessful, and affected teeth need extraction to remove the pain source.
#5: Retained baby teeth in pets
Retained deciduous (i.e., baby) teeth occur commonly in small-breed dogs, but are relatively uncommon in cats and large dogs. Some tiny dogs do not lose their baby teeth as the adult teeth come in, creating two cramped rows of teeth in a miniscule mouth. If the baby teeth are not removed, they can damage the adult teeth, causing them to erupt at an odd angle, or to accumulate plaque and tartar faster. We often remove retained baby teeth when we spay or neuter your pet, as adult teeth have usually grown in by that point, and we will know if the baby teeth will fall out on their own.
#6: Oral masses in pets
A variety of masses can pop up in your pet’s mouth, from benign gum growths to fast-growing cancers. Oral masses are relatively common and, unfortunately, are often malignant and fast-growing, spreading to other body areas. Benign oral tumors, named epulides, involve the gum tissue next to a tooth and can grow quite large, requiring removal of the epulis and affected tooth. Malignant tumors include squamous cell carcinoma, oral melanoma, and fibrosarcoma. Early detection and aggressive treatment provide the best prognosis.
Prevent your pet from feeling the pain of periodontal problems by scheduling a dental-wellness visit with our team—give us a call.