If you have teeth of your own, you probably already know about plaque and tartar, even if you don’t realize it. Just like you your pet also experiences plaque and tartar and require a healthy dental routine.
So, what is it?
Plaque is the soft, gummy substance that forms on teeth after eating a meal. Food particles, bacteria and saliva build up along the gum line and if it is not removed with regular dental care, it will continue to accumulate and within twenty-four hours begins to turn into tartar.
Tartar is plaque that has been allowed to mineralize and hardened into a tough to remove scaly substance. Tartar is irritating to the gums and can cause gingivitis and if not controlled it can lead to other serious periodontal disease.
What does it do?
Tartar can be harmful to your pet’s health in many ways. As tartar builds up it serves as a breeding ground for bacteria, allowing it to grow and multiply within your pet’s mouth. Both the tartar and the bacteria present can then cause inflammation of the gums (gingivitis), which can then lead to redness, sensitivity, trouble chewing, bad breath and bleeding. Bacteria can then be absorbed into the bloodstream through any open sores, causing damage to vital organs, such as the heart, kidneys, and liver. Also, as the tartar builds up along the gum line, it pushes the gums away from the roots of the teeth, causing a receding gum line, which allows exposure of the sensitive, enamel-free part of the tooth, causing pain and discomfort to your pet. If allowed to progress, it can lead to tooth loss, abscesses, bone loss, or infection.
How Can I help?
Brushing your pet’s teeth at least twice weekly is one of the most effective ways to control plaque before it turns into tartar. You can use a soft bristled baby toothbrush, a toothbrush specialized for pet cleanings, or even your finger wrapped in gauze. Avoid using toothpaste meant for humans. You can also provide chew toys and dental treats to help reduce or delay tartar build up in between brushing.
If tartar is allowed to form, it becomes necessary to seek professional help. Your vet will use a special instrument called a scaler, which looks like a sharp hook on a handle, like you would see at your own dentist’s office. After the teeth have been scaled, a rubber tipped rotary polishing tool and specialized toothpaste will be used to polish clean your pet’s teeth. Your pet will likely need to be put under anesthesia for this cleaning.