Caries are formed due to the decay of dentine of the tooth following demineralization of the surface enamel of the tooth. They have a similar pathology to tooth decay in humans.
A large number of factors can be involved in the formation of caries, although generally it comes down to a high carbohydrate diet and poor dental hygiene. However there are thoughts that some animals with genetically poor enamel growth can be pre-disposed.
Increased plaque in the mouth increases tooth bacterial load. The large amount of refined carbohydrates found in some diets further increases the bacterial load, and causes an increase in acids, and degradation products from the bacteria. These products lead to the demineralization of enamel on the surface of the tooth, exposing the much more sensitive dentine below. Pockets of degradation form within teeth which are known as caries. If caries develop further, they can lead to pulp exposure, and become very uncomfortable for the animal.
- Oral Pain
- Decreased willingness to eat
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- Uncomfortable on muzzle palpation
The easiest method of diagnosis is through a thorough dental examination by your vet. This along with a detailed history from an owner, helps to identify these lesions. If suspicious, your vet will recommend a dental treatment, with full dental radiology.
Early Lesions – If these lesions are caught early enough it is possible to place a ‘filling’ using a specialist composite. These are normally only performed by specialist veterinary dentists. Normally they are not noted in this stage however, so further treatment is usually required.
Later Lesions – Dental extraction is the best method of treatment for most lesions noted by the veterinary surgeon.
As with most oral diseases, prevention is all based around good oral hygiene. However, as these lesions can have a genetic underlying cause it is not always possible to completely eliminate the possibility of developing caries. Good oral hygiene, with regular brushing, and inspection of teeth will help us catch these lesions as early as possible.