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Under The Gum

Getting To The Root Of The Matter During Dental Health Month

Think of teeth like an iceberg. What is visible is only a part of the structure; the rest is below the gumline.

But like an iceberg, there can be big things happening out of sight and that can lead to pain, infection and loss of teeth.

February is National Pet Dental Health Month. While I believe that every month should be Pet Dental Health Month, it offers an opportunity for education. Here are the root concerns:

1. Dental disease is preventable, treatable or, at a minimum, correctable. When your mouth is full of diseased teeth, it doesn’t feel good, but our pets don’t show us very well until something has blown into a big hot mess.

2. Dental health plays a significant role in overall health. Good oral care means that teeth and gums don’t develop heavy tartar and inflammation that leads to bad breath, loosening teeth and infection.

Because our cats’ and dogs’ physiologic time clock runs faster than ours, maintaining good oral health becomes even more important as it is a key in having a longer, healthy life.

Remember, roughly six months of human time is the equivalent of three to three and a half years of aging and associated changes. So, a dental assessment and cleaning every two years is like you going to the dentist once every 13 to 14 years. No wonder they have bad breath!

So what is a pet parent to do? First, have your pet’s dental and oral health checked by your veterinarian and discuss if a professional veterinary dental cleaning is due. Additionally, your veterinarian can guide you through the variety of home veterinary dental care options so that you can find what works best for you and your pet – and what doesn’t work as well.

Second, commit to home oral care and checks for your pets. Flip those lips regularly to monitor teeth, gums and breath.

It makes for great storytelling, but I would rather see patients for earlier, easier dental cleanings than to have to extract multiple diseased teeth. It is wonderful to make a patient feel better and see huge change in their demeanor after the extraction of numerous teeth, but wouldn’t it be great to have never had to take 19 or more teeth out of the mouth?

The combination of home preventive oral care and appropriate professional veterinary dental care allows us the opportunity to start and stay healthy.

We want our patient’s owners to understand what is safe and effective dental care with professional veterinary dental assessment, cleaning and treatment if needed. A great discussion about professional veterinary dentistry versus anesthesia-free dental care and other information can be found at:

Now, be brave and go check your cat’s and dog’s teeth. Then, call your veterinarian to schedule for a dental assessment and cleaning.

Dr. Margot can be reached at

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