Understanding Dental Health in Pets: Plaque, Tartar, Calculus and tooth anatomy

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Understanding Dental Health in Pets: Plaque, Tartar, Calculus and tooth anatomy

Maintaining proper dental hygiene is essential for the overall health and well-being of our  pets. Just like humans, pets will develop dental issues such as plaque, tartar, and  calculus, which can lead to serious dental problems if professional dental cleanings are skipped or oral conditions are left untreated. In this article, we’ll  explain dental health in pets and common problems that occur if left untreated.  Additionally, we’ll discuss the anatomy of a tooth to better understand the processes  involved. 



Plaque is a sticky, colorless film of bacteria that constantly forms on the teeth. It develops  when bacteria in the mouth combine with saliva and food particles, creating a thin layer on  the teeth. If not removed through regular brushing or chewing, plaque can harden and turn  into tartar. 




Tartar, also known as dental calculus, is a hard, yellowish deposit that forms on the teeth  when plaque is not removed. As plaque continues to accumulate, it mineralizes and  hardens into tartar. Tartar firmly adheres to the tooth surface and can only be removed  through professional dental cleaning by a veterinarian. If left untreated, tartar buildup can  lead to gum disease, tooth decay, and other serious dental issues. 




Calculus is another term for tartar, referring to the hardened mineral deposits that form on  teeth due to plaque buildup. It is composed of calcium phosphate mineral salts derived  from saliva. Calculus can accumulate above and below the gumline, leading to inflammation and periodontal disease if not addressed promptly. 


Formation Process


The formation of plaque, tartar, and calculus begins with the presence of bacteria in the  mouth. These bacteria feed on sugars and starches from food, producing acids that attack  the tooth enamel. Over time, this process leads to the breakdown of enamel and the  formation of cavities. Meanwhile, the accumulation of plaque provides a breeding ground  for more bacteria, exacerbating the problem. 

As plaque remains on the teeth, it mineralizes and hardens into tartar or calculus,  especially in areas that are difficult to reach with a toothbrush, such as the gumline and  between teeth. Once tartar forms, it creates a rough surface that further promotes plaque  accumulation, creating a vicious cycle of dental deterioration if not addressed. 


Anatomy of a Tooth


To understand how plaque, tartar, and calculus affect dental health, it’s essential to grasp  the anatomy of a tooth. A tooth consists of several layers, including: 

  1. Enamel: The outermost layer of the tooth, enamel is the hardest substance in the body  and serves as a protective barrier against bacteria and decay. 
  2. Dentin: Beneath the enamel lies the dentin, a hard tissue that makes up the bulk of the  tooth. Dentin contains microscopic tubules that connect to the pulp and transmit sensory  signals. 
  3. Pulp: At the center of the tooth is the pulp, which contains blood vessels, nerves, and  connective tissue. The pulp provides nourishment to the tooth and helps maintain its  vitality. 

Understanding the anatomy of a tooth underscores the importance of proper dental care  to preserve enamel integrity and prevent bacterial infiltration into the deeper layers of the  tooth. 


Dental Health for Pets in Milwaukee


In veterinary medicine, maintaining good dental hygiene is crucial for ensuring the health  and longevity of our furry companions. Plaque, tartar, and calculus are common dental  issues that can lead to serious complications if not addressed promptly. By understanding  the differences between these terms and how they form, pet owners can take proactive  measures to prevent dental problems and promote optimal oral health for their pets.  Regular dental check-ups, professional cleanings, and at-home dental care are essential  components of a comprehensive dental care regimen. By prioritizing dental health, pet  owners can help their beloved companions enjoy a lifetime of happy smiles and healthy  teeth.


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