Dental Health... what's the fuss?
"Our pets aren't movie stars... why the need for perfect teeth? Afterall, in the wild no animal has its teeth cleaned..."
Now that our pets live safely in our home environment and benefit from our care, excellent nutrition, and vaccination against infectious disease, they are living longer with greater quality of life than ever before.
Yes, the average cat in the wild will never have its teeth cleaned... however it may be lucky to reach the ripe old age of 3-4 years. Our pets are now living much, much longer than this. So what happens in the mouth as the years go by? If these teeth are not being cared for, accumulations of plaque and tartar develop.
The crown (the part we can see) of every tooth is nicely protected by nature's strongest barrier: a layer of enamel. Unfortunately, though, the root of each tooth is not. Healthy gums provide a seal around this portion of the tooth and protect against infection by disease causing bacteria. Accumulation of plaque and tartar provides an ideal home for these bacteria, which become more abundant and more able to cause disease as time goes by. Once the bacteria-laden tartar meets the gums' protective seal, a war is waged. Eventually, the gums swell, become inflamed, and the seal provided around the root of the tooth is broken down, allowing infection to develop around the root of the tooth. The ligament holding each tooth in place is then broken down, the surrounding bone becomes infected and weakened, and the tooth is eventually lost. During the process, the gums may bleed, allowing bacteria an open portal into the bloodstream, enabling infection to slowly travel to distant organs such as the liver, kidneys, and heart.
This process gradually takes place over time...and is completely reversible if the war at the gumline has not yet been lost. How do we prevent it? Well, for one, we all know that brushing plaque away regularly does not allow tartar to form. Plaque which has not been brushed away will eventually harden and become tartar; at this stage, no toothbrush will be enough. If, though, the tartar is cleared away early enough (a process that usually requires full anesthesia by your veterinarian to be done effectively), the disease can be reversed and gums will "heal and seal".