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Healthy teeth: clean choppers will keep your pet chipper

photo of a hand brushing dog’s tooth for dental care | Whitworth Animal ClinicLike their humans, pets need regular dental examinations and teeth cleanings. Yearly pet exams at Whitworth Animal Clinic include a thorough inspection of teeth and gums because Dr. Whitworth knows good dental health is vitally important to the overall well-being of our canine and feline friends.

We often neglect our pet’s teeth. The most common symptom of a pet in need of dental care is bad breath, which is mostly ignored by pet owners. From there the symptoms only worsen when chewing becomes painful and teeth are loose or gone. By that time it is too late to save teeth and cleaning is not beneficial. Unfortunately, diseases of the mouth can affect other parts of the pet’s body; the kidney, liver, and heart are also weakened. When these organs are damaged, the pet’s life span is shortened.

If you have a puppy or kitten, make sure vet visits include a discussion about your pet’s teeth and your role in keeping them healthy. Many pet breeds are particularly prone to dental problems. According to the I Love Dogs website, the top 10 dog breeds prone to dental disease are

  • Pugs
  • Yorkshire Terrier
  • Sheltie
  • Chihuahua
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Greyhound
  • Dachshund
  • Maltese
  • Chinese Crested
  • Poodle


Ask Dr. Whitworth about products that may help your dog maintain better dental health in between professional cleanings.

Periodontal disease is the most common condition that shows up in adult dogs and cats, and it can be prevented. Even at 3 years, pets show signs of periodontal disease, which progresses as they age. It damages the gums and tissue around the teeth and throughout the mouth.

Periodontal issues begin when bacteria and food particles form plaque, a soft, sticky, whitish mat-like film attached to tooth surfaces. Within days, plaque and saliva combine to form tartar, a hard, crusty deposit on the teeth, consisting of food, cellular debris, and mineral salts. Tartar looks like a brownish-gold buildup on the teeth at the gum line. Then the bacteria works its way under the gums and causes inflammation. This condition is known as gingivitis. Redness or bleeding along the gum line may indicate gingivitis. From there the disease progresses and the bacteria under the gums breaks down the tissue around the teeth. Eventually periodontitis sets in and the pet’s teeth become loose and fall out. Together, gingivitis and periodontitis are known as periodontal disease. Tooth loss can be painful for the pet and unhealthy since it interferes with eating.

Periodontal disease starts when bacteria combine with food particles to form plaque on the teeth. Within days, minerals in the saliva bond with the plaque to form tartar, a hard substance that adheres to the teeth. The bacteria work their way under the gums and cause gingivitis — inflammation of the gums. Once under the gums, bacteria destroys the supporting tissue around the tooth, leading to tooth loss. This condition is known as periodontitis. Gingivitis and periodontitis make up the changes that are referred to as periodontal disease. The bacteria associated with periodontal disease can also travel in the bloodstream to infect the heart, kidneys, and liver. This can be a real health hazard, especially for senior pets.

Doctor Whitworth recommends pet owners adopt a dental-care routine at home to keep plaque at bay between professional cleanings. You can talk with Dr. Whitworth or any of the members of his team about dental hygiene products on the market. Your pet’s teeth will definitely benefit from regular brushing. There are all types of brushes and even flavored pastes on the market to make this chore a little more pleasant for you and your pet. Treats that help with dental hygiene abound. Discuss which ones are best for your pet when you visit Whitworth Animal Clinic.

There is no substitute for a professional dental cleaning, however. It’s the only way to remove tartar from your pet’s teeth and gum tissue. Gingivitis is reversible, but periodontal disease is not. Regular professional cleanings and home care will slow the progress of the disease.

To conduct a cleaning, Dr. Whitworth places your pet under general anesthesia. Your pet remains pain-free during the procedure while the vet examines his/her mouth and removes all the plaque and tarter from the teeth and under the gums. The benefits of teeth cleaning far outweigh any risks posed by anesthesia.

A thorough dental cleaning allows the vet to inspect, treat, and chart important information about your pet’s dental health. Besides removing plaque and tartar, the procedure includes

  • Polishing the teeth to smooth enamel scratches that may attract bacteria
  • X-rays to evaluate problems below the gum line
  • Application of fluoride or a dental sealer
  • Removing or repairing fractured or infected teeth
  • Dental charting for monitoring purposes
  • Inspection of the lips, tongue, and entire mouth for growths, wounds, or other problems


If you notice any changes in your pet’s behavior or behaviors that include drooling, pawing at the mouth, or other discomfort, it’s time to schedule a visit with Dr. Whitworth. There are many reasons to be vigilant about your pet’s dental health. Like humans, pets need dental care to sustain good health and vitality.

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