Just like humans, our pets are vulnerable to gum disease and problems with their teeth.  Alarmingly, it is estimated that up to 80% of dogs and 70% of cats suffer from some form of dental disease by the age of three.

When there is a build up of bacteria, food particles and saliva on the teeth, plaque is formed.  Plaque sticks to the tooth surface above and below the gum line and if not removed will calcify into tartar (also known as calculus).  This appears as yellow-brown material on the teeth.  Over time the bacterial infection in tartar causes irreversible changes to occur.  These include the destruction of supportive tissues and bone, resulting in red gums, bad breath and loosening of teeth.  This same bacterial infection is also a source of infection for the rest of the body (such as the kidney, liver and heart) and can make your pet seriously ill.  Ultimately, dental disease results in many pets unnecessarily suffering tooth loss, gum infection and pain.  It also has the potential to shorten your pets lifespan.

What if my pet has dental disease?

Firstly, you should have your pet's teeth examined by one of our veterinarians on a regular basis, and if necessary, follow up with a professional dental clean.  Your pet needs to be anaesthetised to carry out a thorough dental examination, and to clean all teeth without distressing them.  Once anaesthetised, a complete dental examination is carried out. This process involves charting all present teeth and evaluating their condition, including the degree of tartar, gingivitis (gum inflammation), any pockets in the gums around the teeth, and if they require extraction.

Our veterinarians will then remove plaque and tartar from above and below the gumline using specialised instruments including an ultrasonic scaler, just like a dentist uses for our teeth.  The teeth are then polished using a dental polisher and specialised fine-grade paste. If the dental disease is not severe, the procedure will end here.


See in the picture to the left a comparison of before a scale and polish (bottom jaw) and after (upper jaw).

If certain teeth are so severely affected by tartar build up and cannot be saved, extractions will be necessary.

When teeth are extracted, gum surgery is required to close the holes left behind, and dissolvable stitches are placed.  Once all dental work is completed, your pet may be given an antibiotic injection if required, and a pain relief/anti-inflammatory injection if there were extractions.

See in the picture to the left a severe case of tartar build up around the teeth, as well as gingivitis.

Every pet that undergoes a dental clean is entitled to a 2-week post dental check where we can implement a plan, specific to your pet, to minimise build up of tartar again.

This may involve feeding dental chews or bones, using dental supplements (PlaqueOff), a special diet, or regular tooth brushing.  It is also recommended that all pets be examined 6 months after a dental clean to determine the effectiveness of your dental care plan.

How can I minimise ongoing dental disease?

Long-term control and prevention of dental disease requires regular dental home care.  The best way to begin this is to acclimatise your pet from a young age.  Dental home care may include:

Teeth Daily

Just like us!  This is the best form of dental hygiene. Pet toothbrushes and toothpaste are now available - give us a call to order!

Please do not use human toothpaste formulas as they are not designed to be swallowed and may be toxic to your pet.

Teeth Friendly Chews and Toys

Use dental toys, enzymatic chews, or teeth cleaning biscuits, all of which may help keep the teeth clean.

Dental Diets

Special dentals diets are available for pets.  For example, Hills T/d diet - larger and fibre-bound to enhance chewing and clean teeth. This can help reduce the accumulation of tartar.



As with most things in life, when it comes to dental disease, prevention is definitely better than cure!  Regular and frequent attention to your pet's teeth may avoid the need for a professional dental clean under anaesthetic, and will also improve your pet's overall health.