What is Bacteria, Plaque and Tartar?
Dental problems are a common complaint at veterinary clinics. Along with chipped or broken teeth, dogs can also develop painful cavities, periodontal disease, and hard deposits of plaque and tartar on the teeth. These disorders of the mouth not only are started by bacteria, but they usually harbor bacteria as well, giving them ideal environments in which to multiply. The bacteria are then able to spread to other parts of the body as well. Your pet’s dental health should be evaluated by a veterinarian annually.
An overabundance of bacterial growth and accumulation on and around the teeth can cause dental disorders such as gingivitis, periodontal disease, and infected abscesses.
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Symptoms of Bacteria, Plaque and Tartar in Dogs
Tartar buildup and plaque are just the most visually obvious representation of an overabundance of bacteria growing in the mouth. Other symptoms can include:
- Bleeding gums
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- Loose teeth
- Loss of appetite
- Pain when chewing
- Pus filled nasal discharge
- Pus in the gumline
- Red or swollen gums
- Tooth loss
- Unilateral swelling under the eye
- Weight loss
- Plaque - Plaque is a film on the teeth that is composed of bacteria; when this colorless biofilm accumulates, it can harden into tartar
- Tartar - When plaque is hardened into calcified deposits on the teeth by mineral salts it is referred to as tartar
- Gingivitis - When bacteria accumulate at the gum line in either plaque or tartar, they can cause inflamed gums
- Periodontal disease - This is a disease which attacks the structure of the teeth, usually caused by bacteria; gingivitis often occurs concurrently with periodontal disease
- Caries - Progressive decay and crumbling of the tooth or bone
- Dental abscess - Pus that accumulates in the teeth or gums, usually caused by a bacterial infection
Causes of Bacteria, Plaque and Tartar in Dogs
Plaque is composed of polysaccharides and glycoproteins colonized by several types of bacteria which are commonly found in the mouth. If not removed from the teeth these deposits harden and form ideal breeding places for more bacteria. As these bacteria invade the gums and teeth of your animal they can cause inflammation and bleeding of the gums, bad breath, weakened tooth and bone structure, and dangerous pockets of infection. Serious cases of dental infection can extend out into other parts of the body, causing infections in vital organs such as the heart, kidneys, and liver.
Diagnosis of Bacteria, Plaque and Tartar in Dogs
When a dog is brought into the clinic with a complaint of malodorous breath or other symptoms indicating oral disease, your veterinarian will examine the canine’s mouth for obvious signs of inflammation, bleeding, or pus. General blood tests such as a (CBC) complete blood count and biochemical profile will also be taken to gauge the patient’s overall health and check for any toxins or imbalances. A more thorough examination of the teeth and gums themselves are usually undertaken after the animal is fully sedated so that the veterinarian can probe the between the teeth and gums to check for infection without causing the dog additional discomfort. Gentle finger pressure is used on each tooth to evaluate if there is any looseness or detachment of the teeth themselves. X-ray imaging may be used to assess the health of the structures below the gumline if there is evidence of underlying tooth or bone damage.
Treatment of Bacteria, Plaque and Tartar in Dogs
Moderate to severe dental infections will most likely require that your pet be sedated or placed under general anesthesia. The veterinarian or technician handling your pet’s disorder will start by removing as much of the tartar and plaque buildup as possible. She will scale and clean each of the teeth, both above and below the gum line while assessing the extent of both infection and inflammation. In severe cases, technicians have additional surgical techniques that can assist in the eradication of the infection. In some cases, bone replacement and augmentation can help a dog retain loosened teeth, and the use of the dental flap technique allows for the brief exposure of the root of the tooth and facilitates deep pocket cleaning and difficult tooth extractions. Oral antibiotics are often administered as a matter of course after dental cleanings in canines, to prevent any systemic infections due to the disruption of a vast number of bacteria during the cleaning itself.
Recovery of Bacteria, Plaque and Tartar in Dogs
Bacterial buildup in the mouth can be avoided by regular dental health care starting at around six months of age. Regular brushing of your canine’s teeth is advised to prevent tartar from forming, and toys and treats designed to dislodge plaque from your dog’s teeth can be very helpful in between brushings. Most veterinarians advise that you bring your pet in for a full dental cleaning approximately once a year. When your dog returns home from their regular dental cleaning, they may still be somewhat confused and disoriented due to the influence of the anesthesia and a calm, quiet environment will help speed recovery.
Bacteria, Plaque and Tartar Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
There seems to be a build up of plaque / tartar on my dogs teeth. It is yellow/brownish in color. Also concerning is the build up extends Up into his gums for certain teeth. I have photos. I am very concerned.
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Built up tar. Adopted from the animal foundation in las Vegas. Rescue
If Malo has a buildup of tartar and plaque this would need to be removed and a full dental cleaning carried out; afterwards dry kibbles and regular teeth cleaning will help recurrence of plaque. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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