The progression of dental disease

"We really need to see 'Maxy' for a dental", it's a common request given that 85% of dogs and cats over the age of 4 experience some form of dental disease. So if you have heard a similar comment like this from your vet, you are not alone. With some further explanation and photos to illustrate, we hope to help you understand why your veterinarian is so insistent about teeth and gum care.

The downside of leaving dental problems untreated is your pet's teeth and gums can change rapidly.  Advanced dental disease is not only painful and uncomfortable for pets, the procedure to clean and remove teeth becomes more complicated and often more costly to treat. Below is a typical scenario for a dog aged 3 years or older with no professional dental cleaning or homecare (teeth cleaning, dental food, etc) provided.

First Presentation 

Without homecare or any dental treatment it is highly likely for pets to develop a build up of calculus on the teeth. The rough surface caused by the build up facilitates plaque accumulation.  At this stage you are likely to notice redness and swelling on the gums, commonly known as gingivitis. 

Homecare from an early age can prevent both the build up and plaque accumulation.

Plaque and minor calculus causing inflammation and swelling of the gums. Treatment involves a scale and polish.

Second Presentation (9-12 months later)

If the same pet continues without any home dental care or professional treatment such as a descale and polish, plaque will continue to accumulate and some visible gum recession is likely to take place. 

Plaque and calculus build up becomes more extensive causing inflammation and swelling of the gums, some odour may be present and condition is painful. Treatment includes a more extensive scale and polish.

Third Presentation (Longer term)

Teeth and gum health rapidly declines if left untreated.  At these advanced stages you will see heavy calculus accumulation, severe gingivitis and ulceration, missing or moving teeth as well as extreme bad breath.  The most concerning change is extreme discomfort and pain. At this point other organ systems in the body can also be affected.

Extensive calculus, red and in some cases bleeding gums, recession of gums and pocket formation, bad breath. Sore mouth affects eating and behaviour. Treatment may include extraction of severely affected teeth.
Chronic bacterial infection destroying the gum, tooth and bone. Treatment may involve extraction of several major teeth.

They can't tell us when it aches

We understand it is easy to put off simple procedures like a dental descale and polish until next time. However, it is more difficult for cats and dogs to tell us when they have a toothache. Identifying visible changes and intervening at an early stage will help us to prevent lengthy and sometimes costly procedures and to ensure your pet is as comfortable as possible.

If you are concerned about your pet's teeth and gums, our healthcare team offer dental check-ups.  Just contact us to make an appointment for a dental check-up.