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Dental disease happens to everyone. In humans, we brush our teeth at least twice daily and should still get our teeth cleaned by our dentists every 6-12 months. Dogs don't brush their teeth, and even if you diligently brush your dog or cat's teeth twice daily they will still need regular dental cleanings to prevent advancing disease from developing.
The story of dental disease starts with bacteria. Bacteria colonize the mouth and can stick to food residue on the teeth. As they grow on the teeth they can develop a sticky biofilm called plaque- this creates an even more hospitable environment for the bacteria that is hard to remove. Plaque is what we are trying to eliminate through brushing.
Once plaque has built up, a brown layer of calculus begins to form. This is a mineral matrix that is growing on the plaque biofilm laid down by those bacteria. Once this forms, brushing is no longer going to be effective. A professional dental cleaning is now needed to take off the calculus and restore the teeth to a healthy and clean state. The more calculus builds up, the more inflamed the surrounding gums become. Inflammation exposes blood vessels that allow bacteria from the teeth to enter the blood stream and seed other areas of the body like the kidneys and the heart. As the dental disease progresses, bone begins to be eaten away around the teeth and they can become loose. It is helpful for us to divide these stages into different "grades" of dental disease to help us decide what level of intervention we need to pursue.