Contrary to popular opinion, pets with dental disease rarely go off their food and do continue to behave relatively normally despite, in many instances, quite severe and significant disease.
The symptoms of dental problems are frequently quite subtle and often go unnoticed. Being aware of this will help your pet to obtain treatment when needed.
What might you see inside the mouth?
Visible signs include red, swollen gums which may bleed. Teeth may have exposed roots or be loose. Frequently in cats, teeth might be missing or might have red areas or holes in them indicating tooth resorption. (Bone resorption is the process by which osteoclasts break down bone and release the minerals, resulting in a transfer of calcium from bone fluid to the blood).
Fractured teeth might be seen but in some cases may be hidden by dental calculus (a hard brown deposit on the tooth). A heavy build-up of calculus in one area is cause for concern.
What other signs might be noticed?
Halitosis (bad breath) is common. Pets may become head shy and may resent their mouths being touched. They may eat on one side or avoid harder foods. They may groom less well, become grumpy and more withdrawn. Cats in particular may spend more time sleeping.
Dental disease can occur in any animal at any age but as most disease is progressive it becomes more common and advanced in the older animal.
Some of the symptoms of the disease are often put down to ‘old age’ and therefore disease is often overlooked.
Recently broken teeth and tooth root abscesses are usually excruciatingly painful and your pet will probably be noticeably off colour, possibly not eating and dribbling.
Tooth root infection sometimes leads to swelling and an area of discharging infection (yellow pus, sometimes blood tinged) on the side of the face or from the gums.
If you are concerned about your pet's teeth then the best thing to do would be to make an appointment with one of the vets to get them checked. It is always better to consider treating dental disease before it gets too advanced and even better would be to try and prevent it altogether.
If your pet does require a dental this will involve being admitted to the practice for the day and will require a full general anaesthetic whether any teeth need to be removed or not.
After any dental procedure we will send home a dental chart with your pet. This will show you exactly what has been done during the dental procedure and will provide you with advice going forward to help prevent against future dental disease.