Teeth, Teeth, Teeth

Google Maps location for Riverport Veterinary Hospital

Riverport Veterinary Hospital
1 Avoca Street
SA 5214

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08 8555 5690

Victor Central Veterinary Clinic
35 Crozier Road
Victor Harbor
SA 5211

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08 7522 4300

Why bother talking about teeth?  Well, as a veterinarian dental disease is the single most common problem that we see in cats and dogs.  Incredibly, over 80% of dogs and cats over the age of 3 have some sort of tooth (or teeth) problem that requires treatment.

What are the main problems that we see?

The most common problem that we see with pet’s teeth is periodontal disease, or “dental disease”.  In simple terms this is what would happen to us if we didn’t brush our teeth twice daily.  This begins as an invisible layer of plaque forms on the teeth (full of bacteria).  Without brushing and/or other preventative measures this plaque layer solidifies to form dental calculus which can not be removed other than by a professional (your vet or vet nurse).  As the calculus and dental disease progress, infection between the tooth and gums leads to severe pain and eventually loosening of the tooth from it’s support structures.

A dog with severe dental disease

What can I do about it?

If your pet already has dental calculus  he/she needs to have it removed under general anaesthetic along with an ultrasonic scale and polish (this is the same as what we have done at the dentist every year).  At this time any problematic teeth can also be dealt with using a combination of dental x-rays and treatment techniques.

However, this is only half of the deal.  Home care is equally as important.  To give you an idea, a small breed dog will need their teeth professionally cleaned every 6-12 months (and sometimes as often as every 3 months) if no home care is performed.  There are a whole range of home dental care techniques (there’s a subject for another blog at some stage…) but in simple terms brushing is by far the best, followed by dental dry foods, dental sticks and chews, antibacterial gels and water additives.


A dog after having it's teeth professionally cleaned. Look at the sparkly whites!

Is it normal for my pet to develop bad breath?

Absolutely not!  “Doggy breath” is almost always caused by dental disease which is 100% preventable and treatable.  Put simply, bad breath is caused by infection and pus in the mouth….yes pus like from an abscess.  This may sound a little dramatic but that’s the reality of it.  The scary thing is that many people still like to be kissed from their dogs with “doggy breath”…….


Doggy Breath

I’ve heard that dogs and cats teeth sometimes fall out as they get older

This is actually true but when you understand why teeth fall out it can’t be considered a “normal” ageing process.  Barring some specific disease (eg resorptive lesions in cats and broken teeth), the vast majority of teeth that fall out have done so because of uncontrolled, severe dental disease.  This means that the infection has eaten away at the ligament and bone that holds the tooth in place until it becomes loose and falls out.  Unfortunately this is incredibly painful for your furry friend.  The sad thing is that this process is almost 100% preventable as we talked about earlier.

OK now you’ve made me feel like a bad owner

Sorry about that it wasn’t the intention.  The reality is that most cat and dog owners:

a)      Don’t know or understand dental disease in their pet

b)      Rarely check their pet’s teeth

So don’t feel bad…..every day at routine consultations we open a cat or dog’s mouth to show owners exactly what is going on behind those lips.  It’s not your fault if you have missed something but let’s take the opportunity to get it right!

This is just a brief overview of dental disease in dogs and cats.  Of course we see loads of other problems such as fractured teeth, retained baby teeth and even malocclusion so if you have any worries about your pet’s teeth, get them checked out!


Check out my teeth!

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