Dental health can play a pivotal role in your pets' overall well-being. Eighty-five of dogs and 70% of cats over three years old have some form of periodontal d
isease with bad breath, excessive salivation and difficulty chewing usually the first signs owners notice.
Below are a list of common dental issues that you can look for. It's important to 'flip the lip' and actually have a good look at all of your pets teeth as these problems are easy to overlook.
Plaque is commonly caused by food residue remaining around the gums and teeth. Soft, mushy foods will leave more residue than dry kibble or food that must be chewed. The bacteria feeds off this residue and becomes plaque. If left on the tooth, mineralisation begins to occur and calculus or tartar forms.
Calculus & Gingivitis
Plaque mineralises/calcifies and becomes calculus or tartar. The gums will react to this by becoming inflamed. This is known as gingivitis. Gums may recede forming pockets and exposing tooth roots. The stages of periodontitis are shown below.
Source: Royal Canin
Teeth that are multi-rooted can have furcation exposure - the exposure between the roots forming a 'tunnel' (as shown in this picture left) due to tooth and bone destruction. Teeth with furcation exposure need to be extracted.
Tooth Root Abscess
These lesions are caused by bacteria growing in the formed pockets around the tooth roots. Swelling may be noticed on the animals face if these lesions are not draining.
Source: Source: Gorrel, C (2008). Small Animal Dentistry.
Sydney: Saunders Elsevier, p16
Fractures to the tooth can expose dental pulp causing pain and inflammation. The pulp will become infected if not acted upon and lesions will form at the base of the root. Tooth extraction is usually indicated in these cases.
Feline Resorptive Lesions
Odontoclasts are cells that are activated when a kitten is losing their baby (deciduous) teeth and are responsible for resorbing the roots and assisting in normal loss of deciduous teeth. In two-thirds of cats these cells are reactivated when they are older, affecting the enamel and dentin of the adult teeth. (Source: Gorrel, Cecilia (2003). "Feline Odontoclastic Resorptive Lesions". Proceedings of the 28th World Congress of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association).
Most lesions will present with gingival inflammation due to the disintegration of the enamel in the first stages. This is evident in the picture on the right. Eventually these teeth will fragment and break down and may expose the dental pulp. It is thought these types of lesions are painful and it is best to have these teeth extracted as soon as possible
Source: Gorrel, C (2008). Small Animal Dentistry.
Sydney: Saunders Elsevier, p118