Cat teethDental disease is the most common health problem occurring in adult dogs and cats.

By three years of age, most dogs and cats have some evidence of dental disease. Bad breath is most often noted by owners. Other signs can include pawing at the mouth, dropping food when eating, or even behavioral changes.

Dental disease starts from plaque adhering to the surface of the teeth. Plaque is formed by bacteria within the mouth and eventually mineralizes to tartar which is tightly adhered to the teeth.

Tartar and plaque lead to gingivitis (red and swollen gums), periodontitis (loss of bone and the soft tissues which hold teeth in place), and eventual tooth loss. What we see on the surface of the teeth is only a small portion of what’s occurring in your pet’s mouth. The majority of dental disease is below the gumline.

At home dental care from an early age in both cats and dogs is extremely important to promote good oral health and to slow the progression of dental disease. The best at home dental care is daily teeth brushings. If brushing isn’t an option, there are many Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) approved dental products such as oral rinses, gels, sprays, water additives, and chews available to help your pet’s dental hygiene.

Regardless of at home dental care, the majority of pets will need dental scaling, polishing and dental radiographs at some point in their life. This is performed under general anesthesia.

Corrin Aimetti, DVM, earned her DVM degree from St. George's University. Learn more about her here