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You are here: myPetSmart.com > Pet Care Library > Articles > Preventing Dental Disease

Preventing Dental Disease

PetSmart Brent Carroll, DVM/Banfield

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Dental plaque, which is composed of bacteria, saliva and cellular debris, builds up on the enamel of the teeth. When plaque accumulates with food particles, it becomes hard, thick and yellow -- or calcified -- and is called tartar. 

Dental plaque, which is composed of bacteria, saliva and cellular debris, builds up on the enamel of the teeth. When plaque accumulates with food particles, it becomes hard, thick and yellow -- or calcified -- and is called tartar. 

Tartar becomes evident on many pets' teeth by the time they're 2 to 3 years old. If it's not removed, tartar causes red, inflamed, infected and painful gums (gingivitis); bad breath (halitosis); cavities and periodontal (gum) disease, which leads to pain and tooth loss. The bacterial infection can also spread through the bloodstream to other organs in the body, including the heart and kidneys, and can shorten your Pet's life.

Be sure to seek care for your pet if you notice any of these signs of dental disease:
 

  • Bad breath
     
  • Decreased appetite
     
  • Weight loss
     
  • Yellow teeth
     
  • Red or swollen gums
     
  • Missing teeth
     
  • Nasal discharge
     
  • Tearing or swelling below one eye

Preventive Care

Good preventive care begins with attention to these basics:
 

  • Pet Food. Feeding your pet a firm, kibbled, premium pet food is an easy way to help slow down plaque formation through a mechanical, abrasive action. Special "foods" such as Pedigree Dentabones®, have been specially designed to help keep teeth clean.
     
  • Chew Toys. Appropriate chew toys are another fun and easy way to prevent tartar. Numerous products are available -- consult your veterinarian about the best products for your pet.
     
  • Brushing Pet Teeth. One of the best ways to prevent tartar is to brush your Pet's teeth. Yes, this is possible -- especially, if you make it a fun pet's health care routine. Your veterinarian can show you how to brush your Pet's teeth and can recommend toothbrushes, toothpastes and mouth rinses that are made especially for pets.
     

Exams and Cleanings -- your pet needs regular dental exams and professional cleanings just like you do. Frequency of cleanings depends on each Pet's individual needs, so be sure to consult your veterinarian at least once every six months. If you notice bad breath or other signs of dental disease, call for an appointment with your veterinarian immediately.

Remember, prevention is the best cure! See your veterinarian regularly, and offer your Pet good dental care at home.

Authored and edited by Brent Carroll, DVM

Did You Know ...

Dogs and cats lose baby teeth just like people do. Puppies have 28 temporary teeth that erupt at 3 to 4 weeks of age. They lose these teeth at about 4 months when their 42 permanent teeth begin to emerge. Kittens have 26 temporary teeth that erupt two to three weeks after they're born. Their 30 permanent teeth start emerging at 3 to 4 months of age.

Some dogs wear braces. Braces can help correct a dog's bite problems and ensure that its mouth opens and closes correctly. Orthodontics work can range from adjusting just a few teeth to applying a full set of braces.

© Banfield 2002.6 HOEP #81103

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