Okay so the one I wrote last night sucked. Here's the one that I just wrote in the last 40 minutes. I think it's too long, but I'll have to go find my notebook with the paper specs to be sure.
People are told from the time that they are young that they need to brush their teeth, floss, rinse, and use other preventative measures to insure that their oral health remains good. But ask these same people who brush their own teeth two or three times a day if they brush their dog’s teeth and they will most likely laugh at you. The laughing will quickly stop after you mention the fact that not keeping up with your dog’s oral health can lead to periodontal disease which leads to heart disease. Dirty teeth may not sound like a life threatening ailment, but a diseased heart sure does.
Periodontal disease starts off slowly by plaque accumulating on the surface of the tooth. Though plaque is soft, it cannot be rinsed away with water or pushed off with the tongue. It needs to be taken off by some sort of physical abrasion, usually the food eaten or brushing. If the plaque is left on the tooth it will eventually form tartar. Tartar is when mineral salts from the saliva get into the plaque. This is usually a bigger problem in open mouthed breathers (ex: Greyhounds, or bracchiocephalic breeds), as the salts dry much quicker into the plaque forming tartar. Tartar is hard, it appears above and below the gum line, and it cannot be removed by a toothbrush, it must be scaled off. If left unattended this can lead to Periodontal Disease.
The Periodontal Structures are what keep the teeth firmly in place in a dog’s jaw, allowing for the teeth to comfortably rip and tear away at their food without damaging their teeth. This is what is affected by periodontal disease. By damaging these structures the teeth become loosened in the jaw. This can make eating, or even touching the mouth gently, a painful experience. The sockets quickly become infected and you end up with a very sick dog on your hands; one who will not eat and is in large amounts of pain. Once the periodontal ligament has been damaged, it is irreversible.
In addition to periodontal disease there is usually the occurrence of gingivitis. As the tartar builds up on the teeth it pushes its way down under the gum line. By doing so it irritates the gums. These inflamed soft tissues are host to bacterial toxins which cause infection in the gums, which is when it is termed gingivitis.
So now you have a dog with inflamed and infected gums, teeth covered in plaque and tartar, and a periodontal structure which has broken down to the point where there teeth are loose making it painful to eat, be touched, or even breath open mouthed if the periodontal disease is that bad. The dog’s immune system is trying to fight a lot of infection. In a young, healthy dog, the periodontal disease can usually be kept at bay. But if the dog has a compromised immune system due to illnesses or age, you will see the periodontal disease spreading quicker and heavily affecting the dog.
These bacteria which are causing all of the pain in the dog’s mouth can be released into the blood stream. Organs with the highest blood flow, namely the heart, are the most at risk. If these bacteria are deposited into the heart it is the beginning of heart disease for your poor pup. Though it can sometimes be managed with medication, heart disease will ultimately prevail, resulting in death. The liver, kidney, and even joints can also be heavily affected by the bacteria that the periodontal disease deposited into the blood stream. All of this could have been prevented by doing some simple oral health care.
The first step is the food you are feeding. By feeding solely canned, thoroughly soaked kibble, ground meat, or other soft foods you are setting your dog up to develop tartar quickly. Instead they should be eating a hard kibble, or a whole raw diet, which will provide a physical abrasion to rid your dog of plaque. People will often argue that their dog is missing some teeth so they cannot eat hard foods anymore. Well my own Greyhound just had 17 teeth taken out 3 weeks ago due to horizontal bone loss (which is a hereditary condition affecting most Greyhounds). He eats ¼ of a raw chicken, whole, bones and all, twice a day with no problems. And though I have not seen it myself, I have heard of dogs with no teeth but a strong jaw still chowing down on a whole raw diet.
The other thing that you can do at home to prevent periodontal disease is to brush your dog’s teeth once a day. Some people do it once a week, but it has been proven that plaque begins to become tartar in about 24 hours, so if you skip a day of brushing that plaque is already hardened to the teeth. So by brushing once a day you can significantly reduce the chance of periodontal disease.
The most important thing you can do to prevent this is to have your pet’s oral health checked regularly by a veterinarian. This way if they think that your dog, or cat, may be on its way to periodontal disease, they can schedule a dental. In a canine or feline dental the animal is put under anesthesia. While under, dental x-rays are taken. The teeth are then evaluated to see if any need to be removed. Any that are necessary to remove are taken out, and the rest of the teeth are scaled and polished just like they do at a human dentist’s office.
By simply brushing your dog’s teeth, offering foods which will cause physical abrasion, and having regular oral health care done by your veterinarian, you can not only have a dog with better smelling breath, but you can actually save your dog’s liver, kidney’s, heart, and life.
"All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another." -Anatole France