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Why Pet Dental Health Matters

When was the last time you looked at your pet’s teeth? For most of us, the answer is … Why would I do that?

What if I told you that hidden dental disease is one of the most common causes of pain and infection in pets? None of us want our sweet pets to be in pain or to have their lives shortened from infection.


What should we be looking for in our pet’s mouths?

A bright pink or red line along the gums where the gums touch the teeth is the first sign of disease. Periodontal disease and gingivitis are caused by bacteria under the gums along the tooth roots. Over time, this eats away the bone around the tooth and can cause so much bone to be lost that the teeth loosen and fall out. The infection causes pain and inflammation, and bacteria from periodontal disease get into the blood stream and move into other parts of the body. These micro infections cause damage to the organs where they land which can result in reducing your pet’s life expectancy by almost 3 years!


What if I don’t see any signs of gingivitis, but my pet has a lot of tartar and bad breath?

It is not normal for pets to have a lot of tartar. It has been my experience that pets build up more tartar when they are not chewing well. If your pet has a painful tooth, then it will try to avoid using that tooth to chew, and more tartar and calculus (hardened plaque) will build up on the tooth. Many times, when I clean away the tartar from a pet’s teeth, I will find that the tooth with the most tartar has a cavity or is broken and painful from chewing on a hard object such as a bone or rock.


Does my pet need to go under anesthesia to have its teeth cleaned?

Anesthesia and surgery are scary. If your pet has a little tartar (yellow or even brown discoloration on the tooth where you can see it), but the gums are light pink and do not have a bright red or pink around the teeth, then yes your pet needs a deep cleaning under general anesthesia. Even if you do not see any gingivitis, if your pet has a bad odor in its mouth for more than one day, it may need dental surgery.

Dental surgery today is much safer than it has been in the past. Modern anesthesia, surgical monitoring, warmed surgical blankets, and Veterinarians with advanced dental training ensure that each procedure is as safe as possible.


Did you know 80% of dogs need deep dental cleanings starting at 3 years of age and every year after that to prevent infections and tooth loss?

I have had clients tell me that they were told it is “normal” for their dog’s teeth to fall out before it was 8 years old! This is wrong. The average life expectancy of a small dog is 13-16 years. The average life expectancy of a person is about 75-80 years…. So an 8 year old small dog is about the same relative age as a 37-38 year old person. Would you expect a 37-year-old person to have lost all of their teeth? Most people brush their teeth twice a day, and floss at least a couple times a week, but still have to go have their teeth professionally cleaned every 6 months to prevent periodontal disease and tooth loss. Most pets do not brush their teeth and I only have one client who flosses her dog’s teeth, so it makes sense that their teeth will need deep cleanings every year.


What can I do at home to help reduce the number of cleanings my pet needs?


  • Brush your pet’s teeth (especially the back top teeth) at least twice a week to remove food and hair that is trapped in the teeth

  • For large dogs – avoid bones and hard objects to chew – they will break their teeth

  • For all dogs and cats: choose toothpastes, oral rinses, and chews from the VOHC website. VOHC approved products have been independently tested and proven to do what they say that they do

For a thorough physical examination including an oral health assessment, visit Alvin Animal Clinic at our Alvin, Texas, office. Call (281) 585-5183 to book an appointment today.

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