Dentistry is a rapidly becoming a major part of proper pet care. Just like humans, pets’ teeth need looking after too! The health of their teeth and gums has a significant impact on their overall quality of life. Imagine how your mouth would feel and smell if you never brushed your teeth. Imagine having a terrible toothache and not being able to tell anyone about it!

Dental disease typically begins with a build-up of plaque consisting of bacteria, food particles and saliva components on the teeth. Plaque sticks to the tooth surface above and below the gum line and if not removed will calcify into tartar (also known as calculus). This appears as a yellow-brown material on the teeth. Over time the plaque and tartar results in periodontal disease, leading to irreversible changes to the teeth and gums.

There is also growing evidence that periodontal disease can be associated with disease in distant organs, including the heart, liver and kidneys. Ultimately, dental disease is more than just a cosmetic issue — it is a cause of significant illness and pain in dogs and cats.

Common signs of dental disease include:

  • Yellow-brown tartar around the gum line
  • Inflamed, red gums
  • Bad breath
  • Change in eating or chewing habits (especially in cats)
  • Pawing at the face or mouth
  • Excessive drooling
  • Pain or bleeding when you touch the gums or mouth

If your pet is showing any of these signs, please book an appointment to see one of our veterinarians. Early assessment and action can save your pet’s teeth!

Some animals with dental disease may show no obvious signs particularly in the early stages. It is also important to remember that just because your pet is eating, it doesn’t mean they do not have dental pain.


How can I prevent dental disease?

Long-term control and prevention of dental disease requires regular home care. The best way to begin this is to get your pet used to this slowly step by step. Dental home care may include:

Brushing teeth daily

Just like us! This is the best form of dental hygiene. Pet toothbrushes and toothpaste are available. Please do not use human toothpaste as they are not designed to be swallowed and may be toxic to your pet. Get them used to your fingers around their mouth first, and only when they are comfortable with that, then move on to introduce a brush, and then toothpaste.

Dental chews and toys

Dental toys, chews, or teeth-cleaning biscuits, raw bones and hide can all help keep the teeth clean. Bones and hide chews require supervision of course, and are not recommended for dogs who swallow things whole. Ensure also that your dog is actually chewing and not eating it too quickly; if there is no chewing, there is no brushing!

Special dental diets

There are special dental dry food available which are formulated in special shapes and encourage brushing of teeth surfaces. These are available for both cats and dogs and are complete nutritional diets. New products have also been made to be added to their water if they don't like any of the above options! See them in store or please book an appointment with our vets to discuss your pet's oral care.

As with most things in life, when it comes to dental disease, prevention is definitely better than cure. Regular and frequent attention to your pet's teeth may avoid the need for a professional dental clean under anaesthetic, and will also improve your pet's overall health.

What does a dental procedure at the vet's involve?

It is similar to a scale and polish done by a dentist for us. However, unlike us, our pets won’t sit still or open their mouth to allow a comprehensive examination or cleaning of their teeth. Importantly, much of dental disease is under the gumline where we cannot see, so we need the anaesthetic to probe in the tooth roots, and scale under the gums. This is the reason why 'anaesthetic-free' dentals are inadequate and cause more stress to the animal as they are forced to endure the pain of a dental procedure.

The degree of dental disease will affect what type of treatment is required. Your consultation will also include a physical exam and/or blood and urine tests to ensure they are healthy prior to having an anaesthetic. Once anaesthetised, we can give the teeth a thorough cleaning using our specialised dental equipment. When your pet goes home, we will also discuss methods of reducing dental disease in the future.

If you have any questions about dental care or dental cleaning, please book an appointment with our friendly vets.