In humans, it is common to have cavities, but what about dogs and cats? Can they get cavities too? To answer this question, we must first understand how cavities form.
To begin with, cavities are caused by bacteria in the dental plaque. They form in three stages. The first stage does not cause any discomfort and only affects the enamel of the tooth, which is the hard outer layer that covers and protects the tooth. The second stage is a little more painful and involves the dentin, the substance that makes up the tooth. The third and most painful stage is when the infection affects the dental pulp where the blood vessels and nerves of the tooth are located. At this stage, if nothing is done, the decay can damage other parts of the mouth, such as the ligaments, bones and gums.
Cavities are formed by bacteria that like and produce acid from the sugars in the food we eat. From a young age, we learn that it is important to brush our teeth well to avoid cavities. As for our diet, we find many acidic and sweet products. This is also why it is important to limit the consumption of such products, since they contribute to the formation of cavities.
Is it the same with animals?
The formation of cavities is the same whether it is a human or an animal mouth. The difference is mainly in the pH of the mouth. The human mouth is more acidic while the animal mouth is more basic. In fact, the oral pH of humans is between 6.5 and 7 while that of dogs and cats is between 7.5 and 8. Therefore, in animals, bacteria that form cavities are much rarer. Also, there are not many acidic products in their diet. Since cavities are very rare in animals, the use of acidic ingredients can even be beneficial in oral products since they help maintain the pH balance in the mouth. This is why many pet oral products may contain acidic ingredients.
Feghali, K., et al., Cranberry proanthocyanidins: natural weapons against periodontal diseases. J Agric Food Chem, 2012. 60(23): p. 5728-35 Niemiec, Brook A. (2013) Veterinary Periodontology. John Wiley & Sons, 372p. Gouvernement du Québec, 2016. « Carie dentaire ». https://www.quebec.ca/sante/problemes-de-sante/a-z/carie-dentaire/ L’association canadienne des médecins vétérinaires, 2012. « Les chats peuvent-ils avoir des caries? ».