The most underutilized tool of prevention in Veterinary Medicine, is the routine dental. Despite statistical data confirming that by age 3, 70% of cats and 80% of dogs have some form of dental disease, a substantial number of owners choose not to follow their Veterinarians’ advice, forgoing a comprehensive dental evaluation and cleaning. By ignoring dental care, bacteria is allowed to grow, unchecked, in the warm, moist conditions that exist naturally in the mouth, releasing toxins that have damaging consequences for the pet. They assume “bad breath” goes hand in hand with pet ownership, and by the time they seek relief, they have an animal with periodontal disease, infections, abscesses beneath the gum line, and diseased teeth necessitating extraction. In addition to the obviously painful mouth their pet has been living with, dental disease and the infections that accompany it, can damage the heart, kidneys and lungs of pets, ultimately shortening their lives by years.

In reality, though it is reported as the #1 disease affecting our pets, it doesn’t have to be! Oral evaluations are part of every annual exam.  Veterinarians look at the overall condition of the teeth and gums, checking for tartar and plaque buildup, gum discoloration or swelling,  and loose or cracked/chipped teeth, etc. Based on what they find, they’ll advise the owner as to when their pet should undergo a medical cleaning with x-rays. The x-rays are performed to assess conditions beneath the gum line. Since every breed and size of animal is different, there is no firm timeframe for dentals. Small breeds tend to be more prone to dental disease, and might require more frequent dentals. Cats generally need dentals less frequently than dogs, but they do need to be evaluated annually! It’s extremely important to remember that cats hide their pain, and can have advanced dental disease without signaling their distress.

To call attention to the importance of dentals, Veterinarians annually designate the month of February as Dental Awareness Month. To emphasize the significance they place on dentals as prevention, most Veterinary practices offer discounted routine dentals all month, encouraging clients to schedule their pets and receive the added bonus of a cost savings! This annual campaign also focuses on educating owners to the variety of ways they can help maintain a healthy mouth for their pet, at home. Dental hygiene chews, brushing, even orally administered treats formulated for reducing bacteria in the mouth are all viable options for the owner who wants to actively participate in keeping their pet on a healthy regimen of oral care.

Whether your dog or cat is young, middle aged, or a senior, dentals should be a standard part of their overall plan for prevention and health maintenance. With February around the corner, call your Veterinarian at (732) 671-3110 and talk to them about participating in this year’s campaign for oral health as a measure of prevention…seize the opportunity to potentially add years to the life of the pets you love!