How to Assess Your Pet’s Oral Health

Have you ever looked in your dogs’ or cat’s mouth?

Most pet owners never do…

Yet, lifting your pet’s lips is the only way to assess its oral health.

Only licensed veterinarians have the competence to accurately evaluate your pet’s oral health. The goal of this blog is not to teach you how to make a diagnosis, but to show you how to assess your pet’s oral health as early as possible so you can consult your veterinarian as soon as needed.

In doubts, always consult your veterinarian.

In a normal mouth, the teeth are clean and white, and the gums attach smoothly to the tooth.

There is no redness or brown material attached to the teeth.

When regular preventative oral care is not provided to pets, the bacterial biofilm, or plaque present on the pet’s teeth, mineralize into tartar (also called calculus). This plaque is brownish and contaminated with bacteria that will infiltrate the space under the gum.

Calculus is irritating to the gum. It causes gingivitis. It is the first stage of periodontal disease or periodontitis.

Tartar blocks oxygen to the outer tooth and thus changes the nature of the bacteria that can live around the tooth. More redness and tenderness are noted.

The brown calcified tartar gets thicker and can be noted on many teeth.

With time, the type of bacteria changes to one that cause bad breath or halitosis. Bad breath is one of the early signs of periodontal disease noted by pet parents and it gets worse as the disease.

Subgingival bacteria proliferate, creating deep pockets around the teeth through bone destruction. Eventually, this progression can cause tooth loss, abscesses and systemic disease.

At this stage of the disease, a lot of pets will have a tough time chewing hard food and will have the tendency to eat less or to gobble up the food, without any chewing. Weight loss is common.

When the disease is worst on one side, pets will suddenly chew on one side thus avoiding pain on the other side.

But most surprisingly, many pets suffering from periodontal disease will not show major signs of discomfort or pain. Science tells us that periodontitis is painful and seriously impairs the welfare of pets. But cats and dogs are good at hiding their sufferance. That’s why it is important to regularly lift the lips of your pet to assess its oral health. Don’t wait for obvious signs of pain.

Considering that nearly 85% of cats and dogs over the age of three years suffer from periodontitis, the odds are that your pet may be affected.

If you notice any of the signs just described, consult your veterinarian as soon as possible. Professional dental cares are needed.

If you want to prevent periodontal disease, regular (ideally daily) preventative oral care, is compulsory.

In future blogs, we will describe the different preventative oral care options available to pet parents.