Imagine what would happen to your mouth if you didn’t brush your teeth or visit the dentist for 10 years. Do terrible breath, sore gums, and painful, damaged teeth come to mind? Unfortunately for our dogs and cats, the harmful consequences of inadequate dental hygiene are similar to those suffered by humans. While some wear and tear on your pet’s teeth will occur naturally with age, periodontal disease is the real culprit in declining oral health and is often invisible because much of it occurs below the gum line. If periodontal disease remains untreated, it can cause problems beyond an unhealthy mouth. The spread of dental-disease-causing bacteria from the mouth can give rise to potentially damaging infections in other areas of the body, including organ tissues. In order to effectively address periodontal disease, a pet should receive a thorough mouth evaluation and cleaning under general anesthesia, at which time the extractions of any damaged or diseased teeth can be safely performed. Attempting a dental procedure without the use of anesthesia does not allow for a thorough exam or for cleaning below the gum line where most problems occur. It also increases your pet’s stress level, as well as the risk of accidental injury to the patient and the veterinary staff. In order to help lower your pet’s risk of periodontal disease, visit your veterinarian regularly for evaluations of your dog or cat’s oral health. Check back soon for more information as we raise awareness during February for National Pet Dental Health Month!