Description

Tartar, also known as "calculus", is a solid and mostly yellow-brown substance that develops on the surface of the teeth. Tartar is primarily derived from the saliva. Excessive tartar can damage the tooth’s support as well as the surrounding gums, and result in the loss of the tooth itself. In older dogs, severely scaled (scraped) teeth pose a threat to the overall health, and provoke a foul smelling breath.

Urgency

Urgency level 2

Danger

Danger level 2

Course

Tartar is usually first seen around the molars and fangs of the upper jaw. In advanced stages, all teeth might be affected. In very severe cases whole teeth may disappear under a cover of tartar. Excessive build up of tartar may cause irritation of the gums and the periodontium (the structure that arrests the tooth inside the jawbone), and eventually lead to tooth loss. If chewing becomes painful, dogs may become anorexic and appear lethargic. In dogs with bad tartar, owners often observe a foul smell coming from the mouth. Tartar can also develop into a health hazard - especially in older animals. This is a special risk when infections form under inflamed gums, as they can break through the gums and cause septicemia.

Cause

Minerals contained in dog saliva collect in the mouth and cause the development of plaque – a biofilm of bacteria and bacteria metabolites. These can calcify and become tartar. Lack of vitamins (mostly vitamin A and B, and/or a lack of dietary minerals), an unbalanced diet (especially a diet too high in carbohydrates) as well as genetic predisposition in certain dog breeds can lead to the formation of tartar.

Therapy

Tartar is removed in veterinary practices with a special tool that is heated at the tip and allows for an easy loosening of the tartar. Animals that undergo treatment will have to be administered anesthetics during the procedure. Thorough cleaning of all teeth and straightening of “gum pockets” is also necessary. Antibiotics might be necessary in order to prevent further spreading if the gums have become infected.

Emergency measures

In order to prevent excessive build-up of tartar, older dogs especially should be checked for oral health twice a year and should receive a cleaning treatment if necessary. Removal of tartar offers only relief for a short period of time and symptoms may reoccur.