5 (dangerous) myths about oral and dental health

This blog is meant to destroy 5 commonly heard myths on oral and dental health in dogs and cats. 5 beliefs that are dangerous to the animal’s health and well-being.

1. Dogs and cats normally have bad breath

The most common source of bad breath is oral cavity. Sometimes a bad breath can be noticed after ingestion of certain foods, just like in humans. However, if the bad breath is persistent, it is most commonly a result of bacterial attachment to the dental and oral surfaces. Bad breath is most commonly associated with periodontal disease. Other oral and dental diseases, such as broken and infected teeth, severe oral inflammation, oral cancer and foreign bodies can also cause severe bad breath. Other potential sources of bad breath are the nose, ears, throat and tonsils, lungs, esophagus and stomach. Some metabolic or systemic diseases (for example, liver disease, kidney disease and diabetes mellitus) can also cause bad breath. Bad breath is a sign that you should bring your animal to your vet!

2. Cats will shed their teeth with aging

Dogs and cats »shed« their teeth only once in their lifetime – during exfoliation of deciduous teeth (and eruption of permanent teeth). Any other »tooth shedding« is a sign of disease. Cats will commonly loose teeth if they are affected with tooth resorption or severe periodontal disease, and both diseases require treatment. Teeth can be lost also due to traumatic fracture or avulsion. If your adult cat (or dog) is »shedding teeth«, see your vet!

3. Epulides are not a problem

»Epulis« is commonly associated with a benign gingival tumor, but »epulis« can be any growth on the gum and the term »epulis« does not describe the lesion properly. If the animal has an oral mass, non-healing ulcer or any other change in the oral cavity, it is of an utmost importance to bring it to the vet as soon as possible to have a biopsy performed on the lesion. Only with a biopsy the nature of the lesion can be determined and the animal properly examined further and treated as needed. Many oral lesions will indeed turn out inflammatory or reactive. But even malignant lesions can have a good prognosis, if properly diagnosed and treated early.

4. Monitor a fractured tooth

Dental fractures are very common in dogs and cats and usually lead to dental pulp exposure. Once the pulp is exposed, it will inevitably get infected and die. The infection will also spread from the dental pulp through the apical delta of the root into the bone surrounding the tooth root. Eventually a swelling and/or a draining tract may appear. A fractured tooth, especially if the dental pulp is exposed, is painful and will lead to infection, therefore it should never be just monitored, but treated as soon as possible!

5. Animals stop eating if their mouth is sore

Inappetence (anorexia) is very rarely a sign of oral/dental pain! Animals will continue to eat despite severe oral pain. The most common signs of oral/dental pain are difficulties comprehending food (the animal would like to eat, but cannot grab it properly or cannot chew properly), salivation and pawing at the face. Animals with oral/dental pain may also show changes in behaviour – they may start hiding, avoid playing or may become aggressive. Any such signs are the reason to take the animal to the vet.