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Dental Disease


The mouth, teeth, jaws and gums all play an important role in the ability to pick up, chew and swallow food. The condition of your pet’s mouth has considerable bearing on its general health. Proper dental care is as important for dogs and cats as it is for people.



The Normal Mouth

The normal pet’s mouth has clean, white, plaque free teeth, with firm glistening coral pink gums. Your pet’s breath should not be unpleasant. Gum edges should be sharp and closely attached to the tooth surface.


Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is the most common infectious disease in the world, affecting more than 80% of all dogs over three years of age.

Periodontal disease is caused by plaque - a colourless mix of masses of bacteria with sloughed gum cells, white blood cells and bacteria. Plaque needs to be mechanically removed. If plaque is allowed to remain on the teeth, inorganic substances from saliva mineralise the plaque to form Calculus (tartar). Calculus has a rough surface which is ideal for further plaque attachment.

Gingivitis - or inflammation of the gums is recognised by bad breath, bleeding, inflammation, redness and swelling of the gums. Bacteria are attacking the gum at the edge of the teeth. Pus starts to develop in the mouth. Early Gingivitis, with dental cleaning and ongoing home care has a very good prognosis.

Periodontitis - the second stage. Involves irreversible damage to the deeper structures that support the tooth - bone and periodontal ligaments. Untreated will result in loose teeth and tooth loss.

Advanced Periodontitis - involves severe gum recession, loss of supporting bone, mobile teeth and significant amounts of pain. Oronasal fistulae (holes between the mouth and nasal passages) may form. Bacteria and toxins spread via the blood stream to major organs developing into systemic disease including: kidney failure, heart disease, liver and lung infections. Prognosis is guarded with treatment and grave with no treatment.

Tooth Neck Lesions - are slowly developing cavities in the teeth, most commonly seen in cats. Once the sensitive parts of the tooth are exposed the tooth becomes extremely painful and usually needs to be removed.


Pet Food and Dental Disease

1. Abrasive quality of the diet is only one factor in the accumulation of bacterial plaque. Other factors include - breed, type of bite, crowded or rotated teeth, muzzle hair, breathing patterns, position of salivary ducts, systemic diseases including Diabetes Mellitus, Thyroid disease, White Blood Cell disease, autoimmune disease and chronic viral infections.

2. The prevalence of periodontal disease over the last 100 years shows little change despite a significant increase in the amount of prepared pet food fed to our pets.

3.Studies indicate that wild dogs suffer from calculus and periodontal disease to the same degree as domesticated dogs.

4. One of the main factors determining the amount of tartar build up is the individual chemistry of the mouth. Some dogs need cleaning every 6 months; others only need professional cleaning once every few years.


Dental Cleaning - Prophylaxis

The only effective treatment for periodontal disease is a full dental under anaesthetic. This involves a pre-anaesthetic examination, removal of dental calculus and plaque from all surfaces of all teeth using an ultrasonic scaler - including beneath the sensitive gum line, flushing under the gum line to remove debris and bacteria, and polishing the surface of the teeth to make them smooth to inhibit the reformation of plaque. This is time consuming and detailed work.

Teeth with fractures, damaged roots or holes in the enamel need to be removed to prevent abscess formation, pain, discomfort and the risk of systemic infection.

Dogs with moderate to severe periodontal disease, or any concurrent disease, may require a course of antibiotics to help control the bacterial infection of the mouth.

Modern methods of anaesthesia routinely used at this clinic make anaesthetics very safe even in old animals or animals with other ongoing diseases.  If you have any questions please discuss them with the duty veterinarian prior to surgery. The safety of an anaesthetic can be further increased by blood testing prior to the anaesthetic and intravenous fluids prior to or during the anaesthetic.


Preventing the Recurrence

Bones - Although dogs have the natural ability and interest to chew raw meaty bones which provide a similar abrasion and cleaning as artificial supplements, bones can break teeth. They also often don't clean the canine and incisor teeth. For some dogs bones cause flatulence, constipation or diarrhoea and vomiting.

Raw chicken can carry bacterial infections that can be spread to people, so use care in hygiene when handling.


Toothbrushing - Toothbrushing is the best way to clean teeth, but not always the easiest. You will need to introduce the brushing gradually. Brushing is best performed in a back and forth motion; slowly increase the number of teeth cleaned and the length of time spent. Use a flavoured pet toothpaste.

Note: Human pastes cannot be used in dogs as the detergents and high fluoride level may have side effects including stomach upsets.


Dental Diets (such as Royal Canin Dental or Hills T/d)

Brushing Effect - The biscuit's (or kibble) size, shape and texture  produce a mechanical brushing effect on teeth, helping to remove plaque and tartar when chewed.

Tartar Control - Effectively helps reduce tartar through the inclusion of a specific nutrient that effectively reduces plaque deposits.

Any new food should be introduced over about 10 days, starting with only a small amount of the new food mixed in with your pets normal food. Each day feed a little more t/d and a little less of the old food. Because t/d feels a little different when your pet chews it may take a little getting used to, so persevere.

All Royal Canin and Hills foods are backed with a 100% Palatability Guarantee - if your pet doesn’t like the food just bring it back and we will organise a full refund.


Treats - Oravet and Greenies are a good choice. They contain enzymes to help keep the mouth clean and healthy. They’re a digestible snack that have been designed and proven to reduce plaque and tartar build up.


Plaque Off - PlaqueOff is an all natural powder which aids in stopping plaque forming on the teeth and keeps the breath fresh.


If you have any questions about dental disease, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Pets Health Veterinary Practices.


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Pets Health is a full service animal hospital with clinics located in Hilton and O’Halloran Hill. We are dedicated to helping you keep your best mate happy and healthy through each stage of their life with compassionate and reassuring veterinary care.

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O’Halloran Hill Vet Centre

123 Main South Road
O’Halloran Hill, SA 5158

Hilton Vet Centre

142 Sir Donald Bradman Drive
Hilton, SA 5033