I know more about teeth and dental care then I ever imagined I would due to getting a degree in dental hygiene and doing dental cleanings when I worked in the vet clinic. If you were wondering, dog and cat teeth are easier to clean then people’s! Since February is Pet Dental Health Month, I’m going to spend the next few Wellness Wednesdays taking teeth, gingiva and other things dental related.
That’s pretty much what we think of when it comes to dental health, the teeth. But dental care is a lot more than just keeping your pet’s teeth pearly white. It has an effect on their overall health. Knowing a little more about about what makes up your pet’s oral cavity can help you make more informed choices on their care.
There are some differences between our teeth and our pets’- the number of teeth and their function. Dogs have 42 adult teeth, cats have 30 and ferrets have 34 while we get by with 32. Incisors, canines, premolars and molars make up both dentitions, but our teeth are made for grinding food, while the carnivore’s teeth are made for ripping and shredding explaining the difference in their shape.
While there are these differences, the anatomy is pretty much the same.
Each tooth is made up of a crown, the part above the gum and a root, the part below the gum. At the very center of the tooth is the pulp which is a cavity that contains the blood vessels and nerves. The pulp is then covered by dentin which makes up most of the tooth. The outer part of the root is covered by cementum which has a role in keeping the tooth in its spot. The outer part of the crown is covered by enamel which is the hardest substance in the body.
The tooth seats in a socket in the bone of either the mandible (lower jaw) or maxilla (upper jaw). The bone is covered in by gingiva or what we call the gums. In each socket is a system of fibers that connect to the cementum of the root to keep the tooth in place.
Why care about the anatomy? Because it all plays a part in the dental disease that is common in pets. Next week we’ll get into some of the diseases and how they affect your pets health.