Your Pet's Oral Health

It is estimated that 3 out of 4 dogs and cats over 3 years of age have some degree of periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition in dogs and cats seen by veterinarians, and it is entirely preventable. Periodontal comes from the Greek peri, meaning around, andodous, meaning tooth. Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection of the tissue that surrounds the teeth. 

Bad breath is NOT normal in healthy pets.  Some signs that your pet may have dental disease include bad breath, trouble chewing, restlessness and weight loss.

Periodontal Disease begins as gingivitis, which is an inflammation of the gingiva, or gums, when bacteria in the mouth form a substance called plaque that sticks to the surface of the teeth. Subsequently, minerals in the saliva harden the plaque into dental calculus (tartar), which is firmly attached to the teeth. Tartar above the gum line is obvious to many owners, but is not of itself the cause of disease.The real problem develops as plaque and calculus spread under the gum line. You can see early stages of this irritation in the red line and slight rounding of the gum where it meets the tooth. Gingivitis is reversible if treated promptly. Left unchecked, the condition advances to periodontitis, affecting the periodontal ligament, causing permanent tooth damage and, ultimately, loss.

As periodontal infection advances Bacteria under the gum line secrete toxins, which contribute to the tissue damage if untreated. These bacteria also stimulate the animal’s immune system. The initial changes cause white blood cells and inflammatory chemical signals to move into the periodontal space (between the gum or bone and the tooth). The function of the white blood cells is to destroy the bacterial invaders, but chemicals released by the overwhelmed white blood cells cause damage to the supporting tissues of the tooth. Instead of helping the problem, the patient’s own protective system actually worsens the disease when there is severe build-up of plaque and tartar.

There is a wide range in the appearance and severity of periodontal disease, which often cannot be properly evaluated or treated without general anesthesia for veterinary patients. Effects within the oral cavity include damage to or loss of gum tissue and bone around the teeth, development of a hole (‘fistula’) from the oral cavity into the nasal passages causing nasal discharge, fractures of the jaw following weakening of the jaw bone, and bone infection (‘osteomyelititis’). Bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream and are carried around the body. Studies in dogs have shown that periodontal disease is associated with microscopic changes in the heart, liver, and kidneys.

Dog and cat teeth have the same basic structure. The crown, which is covered in enamel, is the part above the gum, or gingiva. Under the enamel is the dentin. The dentin extends below the gum line (gingiva) and forms the root of the tooth. The inner portion of the dentin is the pulp chamber, also called the root canal, which contains the blood and nerve supply for the tooth.


The photo on the right shows healthy teeth and gums

The teeth in these pictures below show different degrees of tartar buildup.  The tooth in the picture to the left is in the early stages of tartar formation.  The tooth in the picture to the right has severe tartar buildup.  You can also see the red, swollen gum inflammation caused by gingivitis.   

Dental Radiography

In some cases, often with older pets and those with more advanced dental disease, much of the problem lies beneath the gumline. In order to properly evaluate whether a tooth needs to be extracted, or can be saved, it is necessary to take x-rays of any teeth in question. Using our modern digital dental imaging system, our doctors can evaluate your pet's teeth quickly and accurately.

The Cleaning Process


A thorough dental cleaning requires the pet to be under general anesthesia. The process for a routine dental cleaning involves scaling and polishing the teeth. It is during this process that a more complete oral exam can also be performed, evaluating the condition of each tooth.


The technician in these two pictures is using an ultrasonic scaler which, through high frequency, removes tartar buildup and cleans above and below the gumline. Note in the upper picture the tartar buildup on the middle tooth and front canine tooth prior to scaling.

In this picture, you see the same teeth after ultrasonic scaling.



After scaling is completed, the teeth are polished with a special dental polisher and paste. This process smooths the enamel of the tooth.

Our Allenstown Veterinary Staff is Answering Your Questions About Your Pet's Dental Health

Most pet parents understand dental care is important for their animal's health. After all, clean teeth and gums can add years to your pet's life! But they may be unsure about the ins and outs of pet dentistry. We're answering your questions about this important part of pet wellness.

How Many Teeth Should My Dog or Cat Have?

There should be 42 dog teeth in an adult canine's mouth, and 30 cat teeth in an adult feline's mouth. Extra or missing teeth can be a sign of a problem (don't worry—we'll count them for you!).

Is Dental Disease Common in Pets?

It’s estimated that over 70% of dogs and cats over 3 years of age have some form of dental disease.  Like humans, dogs and cats are susceptible to a variety of conditions which can impair the integrity of their gums, teeth, and mouth. Common conditions we see include:

  • Plaque and tartar build-up (this residue is home to millions of bacteria!)
  • Tooth infection (abscess)
  • Gum infection (periodontal disease)
  • Impacted teeth (baby teeth which don't fall out)
  • Jaw bone fractures and malocclusions
  • Oral cysts and tumors

How Can I Tell if My Pet has Dental Disease?

You may not be able to tell. Pet dental disease doesn't always have symptoms, so it's important to bring your cat or dog in for a routine dental exam and cleaning.

That said, common signs of a dental health problem in your cat or dog may include:

  • Bad breath
  • Loose, missing, fractured, extra, or discolored teeth
  • Bleeding, especially around the gums
  • Lumps and bumps in the mouth
  • Dropping food, chewing on one side of the mouth, or reluctance to eat (these signs may indicate tooth pain)

What Happens During a Pet Dental Exam?

We'll put your pet under general anesthesia. This allows us to do our job effectively and keeps your pet safe, comfortable, and calm. We'll inspect your pet's entire mouth and look for early warning signs of dental disease. We’ll take digital whole mouth x-rays so we can evaluate what’s happening beneath your pet’s gum line.  We'll also clean and polish your pet's teeth, removing bacteria-ridden plaque and tartar.

We'll also give you follow-up instructions, such as:

  • How to brush your pet's teeth
  • What to give your pet for "safe" chewing
  • Whether your pet needs further intervention, such as surgery/surgical extractions, medication, or nutritional supplements
  • For more detailed information about pet dental disease and treatment please visit this page (hyperlink).

Is Your Beloved Animal Companion Due for a Pet Dental Exam? Connect With our Veterinarians at Allenstown Animal Hospital for High-Quality Pet Dentistry!

Contact our animal hospital today to schedule an appointment with a veterinarian in Allenstown. First-time visits get 10% off their initial wellness exam, so don't hesitate to call! Our number is (603) 485-7133.


Find us on the map

Office Hours

Our Regular Schedule


8:00 am-5:30 pm


8:00 am-7:00 pm


8:00 am-5:30 pm


8:00 am-7:00 pm


8:00 am-5:30 pm


8:00 am-12:00 pm




Read What Our Clients Say

  • "The Veterinarians are very nice and all the staff have been so nice to Peanut everytime we go in.
    They are very knowledgeable about my pet."
    Richard J Ross
  • "We have been dealing with Allenstown Animal Hospital for many years. They have always provided excellent care to our dogs and very good advice to us. The staff are top notch and they have always accommodated our needs."
    Shelly Guido