Dental disease is often one of the most overlooked areas of our pet's health, as many cats and dogs will not complain until there is significant oral pain. Get into the habit of checking your pet's teeth and gums on a weekly basis to check for accumulating tartar or gingivitis (red and sore gums).
Dogs will often fracture teeth from chewing on bones or deer antlers that are too hard, and cats will often get oral resorptive lesions which are painful erosions of the crown of the tooth.
We also know that chronic bacteria in the mouth will shower into the bloodstream, and can be a significant cause of infections elsewhere in the body including the liver, kidneys, and heart.
It is greatly recommended that dogs and cats have regular dental cleanings to prevent them from having to have teeth extracted. This must be done under a general anesthetic (with IV fluids) in order to protect their airway and provide the most benefit of a cleaning. The teeth are scaled with an ultrasonic scaler, and polished the same way they do in people.
If cleanings are not performed in time and infection sets into the gum tissue, then teeth can become painful, infected and/or mobile and need to be removed surgically. Extractions are also performed on fractured teeth or in cats with resorptive lesions to remove the source of pain.