Kidney damage, liver damage, heart disease and a painful old age are the potential effects of untreated dental disease in your pet.
Plaque (a sticky accumulation of bacteria, food and saliva) accumulates on the teeth. Plaque is very hard to see unless specially stained. Tartar is mineralized plaque and easy to see. Tartar makes a rough surface that allows the plaque to accumulate more easily but is not the actual cause of the dental disease. Bacteria in the plaque cause the inflammation (gingivitis). This, if left untreated, causes loss of gum and bone around the teeth (periodontitis), which is progressive and eventually leads to loss of teeth and weakening of the jaw.
Most dogs and cats over 3 years of age suffer from this entirely preventable condition.
Your best course is to prevent plaque forming in the first place with good dental care. Tooth brushing is the surest way to prevent plaque formation. Other options are available e.g. regular dental scaling, prescription dental food and water additives. Be aware that not everything advertised is actually effective so get good advice from your vet.
If dental disease is already present, a professional ultrasonic dental scale is needed to remove tartar and plaque. Dental x-rays are essential to assess the degree of bone loss and disease around the tooth roots as outwardly normal appearing teeth can have problems under the gum line that can only be detected with dental x-rays.
Looking after your pet’s teeth is not only about sweet smelling breath. It is about preventing pain, preventing organ damage and extending your pet’s life.