You wouldn’t go forever without brushing your teeth or going to the dentist.
Neither should your pet. You should have his teeth checked once a year by your veterinarian to detect problems early, says the American Veterinary Medical Association. Make the trip sooner if your pet exhibits any of the following:
- bad breath
- broken or loose teeth
- extra teeth or retained baby teeth
- teeth that are discolored or covered in tartar
- abnormal chewing, drooling, or dropping food from the mouth
- reduced appetite or refusal to eat
- pain in or around the mouth
- bleeding from the mouth
- swelling in the areas surrounding the mouth
Even a change in behavior can be triggered by tooth problems, most of which are the same exhibited by humans, like broken teeth, periodontal disease, abscesses, cysts or tumors in the mouth, misalignment of the teeth, broken jaw and cleft palate.
Just as with their human counterparts, periodontal disease is the most common tooth problem in dogs and cats - a result of lack of teeth cleaning, adds the AVMA. Leaving periodontal disease unchecked will only make it worse over time and can be extremely painful for your pet, even resulting in tooth loss, and worse. Periodontal disease can also result in damage to the jawbone, as well as kidney, liver, and heart muscle damage.
Treatment of periodontal disease involves cleaning plaque and tartar from your pet’s teeth. Your veterinarian can make recommendations based on your pet’s condition, says the AVMA.
The AVMA notes that brushing your pet’s teeth is the single most effective thing you can do to keep them healthy between cleanings, and recommends daily brushing or at least several times a week. Most dogs accept brushing, but cats require patience and training. Your veterinarian can recommend dental products for your pet.