February is Dental Awareness Month!

February is dental health month and it's coming up fast! Why is dental health important?

gross mouth

You hear it every time you come to the vet, are you brushing your pet's teeth? Most of the time you brush it off, because who brushes their dogs' teeth and who has the time? You make sure your pet has the best food, a comfy bed, fresh water and you even trim their nails regularly, but how much do you think about their teeth? We brush our teeth everyday because we know our oral health is important but did you know it is just as important for your pets? Oral hygiene is one of the most neglected areas in our pets because it is not commonly thought of. According to the Veterinary Oral Health Council, by the time pets are 2 years of age, 85% of them suffer from some degree of periodontal disease. That's an awful big percentage!! As we approach February and dental health awareness month, it is time to talk about the importance of dental health in our pets.

disease scale

Dental health in our pets is evaluated on a grading scale of 1-4, 4 being large amounts of dental disease and 1 being very little. Stages 3 and 4 often have irreversible damage that can lead to tooth and bone loss which can be a major problem. Imagine if you haven't brushed your teeth in a little bit and you feel that "scrubby" feeling where your teeth almost feel like they're covered in a layer of something. That layer is called plaque. Plaque can form on your teeth in 4-6 hours! When we brush our teeth, we brush the plaque away keeping our teeth clean and healthy. Now imagine if you don't brush your teeth for a few days, that plaque begins to harden and becomes tartar. Under that tartar is bacteria that is naturally existing in your mouth. Every time you brush, you brush that bacteria away too. When you don't, the tartar then creates a protective barrier around that bacteria which stops it from being cleared away when you brush. That bacteria then has the perfect environment to begin its destructive process. The bacteria begins to eat away the gum tissue and bone in the jaw causing tooth decay, bone loss, gingival recession and that bacteria will eventually enter the blood stream and go to the kidneys, liver, lungs, heart, etc. which can be very bad and lead to other diseases. A healthy mouth is a big part of keeping the body healthy as well. When the teeth are not cared for properly, we can end up with more than just bad breath we can have tooth loss, gum disease and even heart/kidney disease.

before/after cleaning

So what can we do about it? Brush! Yes they are a dog or a cat, yes the concept is strange but the truth is their dental health is just as vital as ours. Brushing their teeth even just a couple times a week can have a huge impact on their oral health. Make an appointment! Did you know Westarbor Animal Hospital's Dr. Clarkson has a special interest in dentistry? We have been practicing referral dentistry for 25 years and we love teeth! We have lots of specialized equipment including dental x-ray that create a more comprehensive dental experience for your pet. Annual exams to make sure your pet has a healthy mouth is an important part of their physical exam and we can help you if their teeth are less than perfect, it's our job! As we celebrate dental health take a look inside your pets' mouth, what do YOU see?

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