Dental disease is one of the most insidious and common diseases affecting America's pet population. Almost 80% of America's dogs and cats have developed gingivitis by two years of age. Over a lifetime, periodontal disease can lead to bad breath, root decay and loss of teeth, jaw abscesses, liver, heart and kidney disease and failure.
Every time a dog or cat eats, small particles stick to the teeth and combine with bacteria to form a sticky film called plaque. If this plaque is not cleaned off, it will harden into a hard, brown layer called tartar. Tartar is a semi-permanent substance bonded to the tooth itself that harbors dangerous bacteria that begin attacking the gums and the roots of the teeth. This is periodontal disease, and is an irreversible process.
The Veterinary Oral Health Council has a very informative website explaining periodontal disease and preventative oral care.