LOS ANGELES, CA – Although this proverb may have some merit for interpersonal  relationships it is not in the best interest of the horse.  Nor is it a good idea to ignore the oral cavity of your dog or car.  Dental enamel is the hardest substance in the body, yet the teeth and gums represent a major source of disease.

Plaque is a soft substance that clings to the surface of teeth.  It is a sticky  film of bacteria that is not readily seen, but can be removed with gentle abrasion (such as a toothbrush or
certain chewables).  Calculus (tartar) is a hard mineral deposit that commonly accumulates on the teeth adjacent to the gumline.  Calculus can NOT be brushed off,  but requires much more effort (scaling) to remove.  Calculus and plaque promote an inflammatory reaction in the gums and can lead to destruction of the tissues that anchor the tooth.

This inflammatory process can also have consequences far beyond the mouth.  Some conditions that have been linked to oral inflammation are heart, lung, and kidney disease, blood clots, strokes, and low birth weight babies.

Although calculus can sometimes be scraped off while an animal is awake, the end result is usually not ideal.  There can be cosmetic improvement, but serious problems may persist unseen.  Under anesthesia, a complete oral exam can detect problem areas that are unseen in an awake animal.  Damaged teeth, root pockets, inflammatory changes and tumors can be evaluated and treated during a complete oral examination.  Teeth cleaning consists of ultrasonic removal of all the plaque and tartar, both above and below the gum margin.  Each tooth is then polished to make it more difficult for plaque to adhere.

Home care is extremely important to maintain oral health between veterinary treatments.  Since hard calculus starts to form in 2-3 days, brushing must be done several times a week.  It has been found that certain “chewables” can be as effective as brushing.

Follow the advice of your veterinarian regarding  oral/dental exams and treatment to avoid many health problems.  Whether your pet is a gift, a rescue, or purchased, don’t forget to look in the mouth.