Dental health involves not just how clean your pet’s teeth are, but also the alignment of their teeth and jaws, and how healthy their gums are.
Good dental health
Overcrowded teeth, an under-or over-shot jaw and malocclusion (a mouth that can't close properly), can all cause problems for your pet
- - Trapped food, plaque and tartar can build up between overcrowded teeth
- - Teeth in the wrong position can impact on the gums or palate, causing pain and increasing risk of infection
- - In animals (eg rabbits) where the teeth grow constantly, malocclusion can cause painful hooks and spurs to form on the teeth, and can stop your pet from eating and grooming
Abnormal dentition (eg retained baby teeth) can cause problems for similar reasons
Some breeds can be more at risk of dental problems
- - Eg greyhounds, short-nosed breeds, and dwarf rabbits.
Plaque and tartar building up on teeth can damage dental health
- - It provides a place where bugs can flourish
- - It can lead to damaged or inflamed gums (called gingivitis) and periodontal disease (a major cause of tooth root infections/abscesses and tooth loss)
Gums protect the roots of the teeth from damage and infection
Inflamed or ulcerated gums can be extremely painful for your pet
What can I do?
Cats and dogs
The ‘gold standard’ is toothbrushing
- - Mechanical action breaks down plaque and tartar
- - An enzymatic toothpaste can be used to help remove plaque
- - It’s good to start this early; it’s much easier to get puppies and kittens to accept tooth-brushing than adults!
If this is not possible, there are other things that can help
- - Enzymatic gels or chews, mouthwashes or sprays (still help to clean the whole mouth)
- - Products that can be added to food or water
- - Dental chews or dental biscuits (good at cleaning chewing surfaces, don’t deal with tartar on front teeth/canines as well as toothbrushing or enzymatic products)
Rabbits (and rodents)
Fibre, fibre, fibre!
- - Grass and hay wear down teeth naturally (and also improve digestion and overall health)
Wooden toys, fruit tree branches etc (to encourage gnawing)
How we can help
Regular checks of your pet’s teeth and mouth (e.g. at annual boosters)
Treating existing dental disease
- - Cleaning teeth and extractions under general anaesthetic (for damaged or infected teeth)
- - Burring rabbits’ teeth (this can often be done without a general anaesthetic)
- - Appropriate antibiotics to treat infection
Advising on home dental care