Dental care: a key to general well being

Plaque and calculus accumulation in pet’s teeth lead to complete tooth erosion. If we act fast, the recovery will be earlier and complete. As we delay, the complications can culminate in an irreparable damage. Here’s more on pooch dental hygiene.

In humans, the dentistry has gone in a sea change in terms of product awareness and innovations as well as availability of products in dental care, oral hygiene and cosmetic dentistry but the pet dental segment in India is still in the budding phase. The awareness about pet dental health among pet parents seems to be the most important area of present discussion. A lot of innovations have happened in the area of pet dentistry also and some basic products are already available in the markets.

Here are a few common dental problems in dogs.
Halitosis or bad breath: This is the first complaint noticed in a dental problem. This can happen due to a bad stomach also. A detailed examination by your veterinarian is required to confirm the reason for bad breath. It is essential to keep our pet’s mouth clean and healthy to avoid bad odour from mouth.
Plaque and calculus: This is an outcome of the deposition of food materials or extra mineralisation of teeth. This can be rated as a first degree dental complication. The plaque can harbour some bacteria which may complicate the situation to worse levels. Calculus mostly remains as a cosmetic issue but of late can attract some complications. The treatment is removal of plaque or calculus by dental scaling which is done by a veterinarian. Tartar can be defined as a hardened plaque which cannot be removed through brushing.
Gingivitis: This can be considered as a second level dental complication where the gums are also getting involved. The supra-gingival plaque harbours micro-organisms causing tissue damage. If properly managed, gingivitis can be restricted at its level rather than progressing to advanced stages. The objective of treatment at this stage would be in restoring inflamed gingiva clinically back to healthy stage. Plaque control remains on high priority during management of gingivitis.
Periodontitis: It can be described as a third level of dental complication which has gone deep root into the dental structure. The pet parent may notice bleeding gums and teeth. He may also find a loose tooth or sometimes a lost tooth. A veterinarian will diagnose this stage of dental complication before confirming it as a ‘periodontal disease’. The prognosis is not good but an expert veterinarian’s objective would be to stop the progression of tissue destruction and to prevent lesions to other sites.
These complications can definitely impart a bad response in dogs like – malnutrition, loss of alertness, other health problems, even affecting internal organs, etc. It must be also worth mentioning that artificial set of teeth after tooth eruption is not (widely) practiced in our country. Hence loss of tooth may be considered as a permanent lose.
Preventing dental problems
It is prudent to discuss how we can prevent dental problems. The first lessons start at home.
Brushing: There is no alternative to brushing in keeping good dental hygiene. It is very important to use a good quality paste and brush exclusively designed for pets. Brushing not only helps to remove plaque and reduces accumulation of calculus but also help the pet parent to have a close watch of the pet’s mouth and act immediately on finding any complications. Brushing needs a lot of co-operation from your pet as well as a good level of motivation from pet parent. It is always advisable to inculcate the habit of brushing from a young age as it may be very difficult later.
There are oral rinses as well as plaque removing swabs in foreign markets which may be available in our country in the coming days.
Dental chews: Chews are the easiest way to clean the teeth. There are specially designed vegetarian chews available which can clean the teeth physically as well as enzymatically.
This proves to be an easier way for dental hygiene. Regular use of dental hygiene chews will remarkably reduce the plaque accumulation on teeth and simultaneously reduce the further progression of complications. It is very important to select the right chew for your dog based on her weight as there are different sizes of chews available. It must be considered that chews will help to prevent oral problems but is not a perfect alternative to brushing. Chews also reserve the advantage that it can be started at any age and need not require any handling to offer. It is highly recommended to have an expert consultation for selecting the right chews for your pet because some chews may potentially damage the teeth as well as the general health.
Professional dental management in pets include supra and sub-gingival scaling and polishing, root planing, crown polishing, extraction, periodontal surgery, etc. It is very essential to follow the rigorous dental hygiene recommendations by a professional after dental management to reduce chances of recurrence.
Commercial dental diets are also recommended to provide right nutrition to pets recovering from dental complications after professional management. They not only reduce the accumulation of plaque and calculus but also provide right nutrition to your pets.
Regular home care and periodic dental examination by a veterinarian is essential to control the complications affecting the teeth and related parts. It is always told that a good mouth is required for good nutrition and thereby good health. So, let’s start from the mouth to have a healthier and a happier pet wagging around you.
(Dr R Renjith Nair is product manager – companion animals at Virbac Animal Health India Ltd).