When we think about pet health, many of us tend to forget about an important body part—the teeth. Unfortunately, dental problems are exceedingly common in pets, and many often go unnoticed by pet owners. While many of these conditions are preventable, others are inherited, or generally unavoidable. If you notice any of the following problems in your pet, ensure you schedule a consultation with our veterinary team. 

#1: Periodontal disease in pets

Characterized by plaque, tartar, and gingival inflammation, periodontal disease is diagnosed in more than two-thirds of dogs and cats older than 3 years of age. It all starts with bacteria in the mouth that feed on small food particles and create a slimy film on the teeth known as plaque. Unless you regularly brush your pet’s teeth, the plaque will continue to accumulate, eventually hardening into a brown, calcified substance called tartar. Untreated tartar also accumulates, both on the tooth crown and under the gumline, eventually leading to inflammation or gingivitis. Periodontal disease is not only unpleasant, but also painful, and can lead to more serious problems, such as bone loss, tooth loss, infection, and heart and kidney problems.

Fortunately, this condition is completely preventable in pets. Prevention starts with a good at-home oral-care routine—by brushing your pet’s teeth with an enzymatic veterinary toothpaste at least three times per week, you can help remove plaque and bacteria before they turn into stubborn tartar. Tartar, however, must be removed with scaling, which requires anesthesia for safety and thoroughness. Most pets require annual dental cleanings; however, smaller breed dogs may require more frequent dental care. If you are unsure whether your pet requires a dental cleaning, consult our veterinary team. We can also recommend oral-care products for your pet, or you can browse here

#2: Broken or worn teeth in pets

Teeth can break or wear down for a number of reasons, including chewing inappropriate items such as rocks, hooves, antlers, or hard nylon toys. When a tooth breaks and the inner, sensitive pulp layer is exposed, a root canal or tooth extraction is necessary. If left untreated, the affected tooth may decay, become infected, or cause other serious problems. If root-canal therapy is elected, we will refer you to a veterinary dental specialist . Do not allow your furry friends to chew on any of the above items, and provide softer alternatives, such as Kong toys or dental chews. 

#3: Resorptive lesions in cats

Also known as cervical neck lesions, this painful condition of cats occurs when the structure of the crown and/or tooth root is compromised. Affected teeth can be extracted at your veterinarian’s discretion based on periodontal probing or a referral for dental radiographs. While the cause of feline tooth resorption is unknown, there are possible links to certain viruses, periodontal disease, and increased vitamin A and D intake. 

#4: Retained baby teeth in dogs and cats

By the time dogs and cats reach 6 months of age, they should have all their permanent teeth, but occasionally some deciduous (i.e., baby) teeth stay behind. This can cause problems when the adult teeth erupt, such as potential misalignment, tooth crowding, or periodontal disease. If your pet still has primary teeth at 6 months of age, your Airway veterinarian may recommend tooth extraction. 

#5: Malocclusions in pets

A malocclusion occurs when a pet has an underbite, overbite, or other abnormal jaw alignment. Many breeds, such as bulldogs, boxers, and pugs, can inherit malocclusions, but they can also occur when the jaw is traumatized. In some cases, malocclusion can cause problems with tooth crowding, or injury to the palate or gingiva, that require treatment. 

With an at-home oral-care regimen and regular veterinary dental care, you can help prevent certain dental conditions in your pet, and get early treatment for conditions that may otherwise go unnoticed. Schedule a consultation with our veterinary team to discuss your pet’s dental health, and to learn how to care for your pet’s teeth at home.