It’s not something you think about doing on a regular basis, and sometimes the only time your pets teeth will be checked are at their annual vaccination.
It is important to check inside your pets mouth regularly, in order to spot any potential problems.
All dogs and cats have a first (deciduous/baby) and second (adult) set of teeth.
The deciduous teeth should start to be pushed out once the adult teeth start to erupt, just like with humans. By the time your cat or dog is 8 months old, this process should be complete.
Sometimes this isn’t always the case. The deciduous teeth can become stuck resulting in “double fangs”. We tend to see this more commonly in the smaller breed of dogs- lhasa apso, yorkshire terrier, bichon frise, miniature poodles. It can happen in any breed or size of dog however.
As you can see from the picture, food, hair and bacteria can get stuck between the small gap of the two teeth, which then causes discomfort and gingivitis. We recommend having the baby teeth extracted sooner rather than later. Many people choose to do this when their pet is in for neutering, to reduce the need for a second anaesthetic.
Due to the bacteria in the plaque and tartar, the gum become inflammed and sore (gingivitis). When we scale this off the gums often tend to bleed.
As long as good home care is carried out afterwards, the gums can heal which makes the tooth more secure.
Plaque and Tartar
When plaque continues to build up, it forms tartar. This is a thick, hard coating of bacteria. It doesn’t smell very pleasant which adds to your pets’ halitosis (bad breath). It also starts to affect the gums by causing infection and inflammation (gingivitis).
When the gums recede, it exposes the tooths’ root. The bacteria from the plaque and tartar can then work its way into the blood stream. In serious cases it can cause organ damage such as liver and kidney failure.
Over crowding of the teeth can be quite common in smaller breeds of dog, but can happen to any size of dog. There can be all sorts of reasons for this, from the deciduous teeth not falling out when they should, causing the adult tooth to rotate when erupting to the dog purely having a jaw too small to squeeze all the teeth in!
This doesn’t necessarily cause issues, but it can potentially cause problems depending on the severity. In the worst case scenario, some of the teeth may need to be extracted.
Scale and Polishing
The only way we can get the plaque and tartar off the teeth, is to scale it off.
Unfortunately this involves your pet having to go under an anaesthetic.
Our nurses are fully qualified to perform this procedure. Once your pet is asleep, we can then begin scaling all the plaque and tartar from the teeth. This takes quite a while as the tartar is glued onto the teeth, and we have to clean the front, back and inside of the tooth very thoroughly.
Once this is done, the vet can then check the teeth for any signs of decay and whether any extractions are needed.
The final step is to polish the teeth. We do this to buff out any microscopic grooves left on the teeth through scaling. This helps to prevent further build up of plaque, and makes your pets breath smell much more pleasant!
We do everything we can to save the teeth but sometimes extractions are unavoidable.
Once this dog had his teeth scaled, all his lower incisor teeth were wobbly due to severe gum recession from the bacteria in the tartar eating away at it.
The gums tend to heal relatively quickly, and he is now a much happier dog.
What to do?
There are many products you can buy that can help keep your pets teeth healthy, from chews and toys to toothpastes and mouth wash!
The very best thing you can do is to brush your pets teeth. It is advisable to start this when they are young to get them used to it, but you can try with older pets as long as you do it gradually and patiently.
You can book a free dental check appointment with one of our nurses for us to assess your pets teeth and give advise on the best way to keep them in tip top shape.