Tartar / Calculus
Saliva contains various minerals, these can crystallise within the plaque biofilm to form the hard, stone-like material called calculus. Saliva also normally contains phosphoproteins that inhibit the mineralisation, however plaque bacteria produce enzymes that destroy these protective proteins. Once plaque is established it is therefore almost inevitable that calculus development will follow. Different dogs may have different levels of phosphoproteins and/or minerals in their saliva, this may be one reason why some dogs get more calculus than others.
Calculus is built up in layers. Often live plaque bacteria can be trapped in pockets within the calculus. Bits of organic food debris can also become trapped as new layers of calculus are laid down. Calculus has a very rough surface, this roughness increases the surface area for the plaque biofilm to develop on.
Whilst not directly contributing to periodontal disease calculus forms a rich reservoir of the plaque bacteria responsible for problems.
Calculus tends to accumulate fastest in the areas next to the outlets for the salivary glands. The outside of the upper cheek teeth and the inside of the lower incisors are often the areas first (or most severely) affected.
It is vitally important that all calculus is removed when dental treatment is performed. Calculus can form on the tongue side of the teeth as well as on the lip side, most importantly calculus forms within the gingival pocket and this can’t be left behind. This is one of the reasons why an anaesthetic and thorough cleaning is needed. Simply “cracking off” the obvious large lumps of calculus will not provide any proper benefit.
The rough surface of calculus forms a breeding ground for plaque. It is these plaque bacteria that causes disease.
Did You Know?
Feline Odontoclastic Resorbtive Lesions - or 'Neck Lesions' are very painfull and common in cats.