Sound teeth and gums are an important factor in the maintenance of good health throughout life. Knowledge of the factors which can affect the health of your pet’s teeth should help to prevent problems occurring as the animal ages.
The general health of the puppy or kitten at the time permanent teeth are forming in the jaw can be reflected in the state of the teeth when they eventually erupt at the age of 4 months.
Animals that have had a grossly inadequate diet, have been deficient in calcium or have suffered a severe disease, such as distemper or feline enteritis, often have irregular teeth, mottled brown in color and with an irregular covering of enamel.
Some breeds of dogs are prone to retain their temporary teeth instead of shedding them completely by the age of 6 months. Small breeds such as miniature or toy poodles, Maltese, silky and Yorkshire terriers and Shetland sheep dogs are all commonly affected.
These retained teeth crowd the developing permanent teeth so that they are pushed into abnormal positions. Unless the temporary teeth are removed shortly after the age of 6 months, permanent distortion of the bite can occur.
Dietary habits acquired at an early age have a great bearing on the future health of the teeth and gums. With the widespread use of canned or packaged food, most modern pets never have to tear or chew or gnaw their food to render it able to be swallowed.
The exercising of the jaws and chewing large resilient portions of food massages the gums and removes any food residues from both surfaces of the teeth.
After eating biscuit-type foods or soft meats, today’s sophisticated pet often has food particles remaining in crevices not easily reached by the tongue. The breakdown products of these residues and the lack of mechanical removal lead to the laying down on the teeth of a scale or tartar.
Scale is yellowish-brown granular deposit and is usually first seen at the gum tooth margins of the upper molars. It then extends to the canine teeth and can be so extensive as to cover both surfaces of every tooth.
The gums tend to become inflamed and recede so as to expose more and more of the tooth. Usually by this time the breath is foul and the animal may salivate and be reluctant to chew.
Eventually infection gains entrance to the sockets of the teeth through the exposed roots and the teeth become loose and either fall out or have to be extracted.
From an early age try to encourage the puppy or kitten to use its teeth for chewing and gnawing. Provide pieces of meat such as heart or ox cheek or gravy beef in sufficiently large pieces to make the animal chew before swallowing.
A raw bone once or twice a week will encourage it to use its large molar teeth and thus help to keep them clean. Cooked bones, especially chop and chicken bones, are not recommended as they tend to fragment into small pieces which may irritate the bowel.
Once scale has built up on the teeth, the gums tend to become sore and the dog or cat will not readily start to chew bones. Efforts to remove the scale with a tooth brush are not likely to succeed and it is necessary to seek veterinary assistance.
The animal is sedated and the scale carefully removed from each tooth using a specially designed instrument or an ultra-sonic machine. In some animals in which it is too late to encourage a change of eating habits, it is necessary to scale the teeth every 12 months.