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Gum disease in pets is caused the same as it is with people: by an infection from a soft dental plaque buildup which irritates the gum tissue and leads to infection.
Hard dental tartar is when calcium salts from saliva are embedded in plaque. Tartar forms after a few days and aids in further plaque. Tartar is hard to remove without dental care.
The first sign of trouble you may notice is a bad breath, but gum irritation will also occur, as well as root problems. Dogs may drop food while eating or even lose teeth.
Bacteria surrounding the roots can spread and cause increased damage to the kidneys, heart muscles, and livers of otherwise healthy dogs. This can be prevented with cleanings.
As with humans, the key to managing gum disease is prevention. Cleaning the surface of the teeth frequently is how your gums can stay healthy in the long term.
Some daily oral health activities always include regular chewing for dogs. However, daily brushing is the best method of regular oral care, especially at home.