GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — One of the most important issues pertaining to your pet’s health is probably one of the most overlooked — their teeth.

As part of Dog’s Dental Health Awareness Month, Dr. Jim Moore from Harborfront Hospital for Animals would like to get the word out about just how essential your pet’s dental health is. He said just like humans, oral disease can begin early on in life and is caused by bacteria that causes inflammation.

“Oral disease causes problems in the mouth in eating and comprehension and picking things up and so forth, as well as disease away from the oral cavity. We know the bacteria and inflammatory processes can be found in the heart, the liver, the brain, the kidneys, the reproductive organs if they happen to have any, but especially the pancreas as well,” said Moore.

Dental care for pets can often extend an animal’s life significantly.

“There was a cool study done by the Journal of American Animal Hospital looking at long-term effects of health care, and it wasn’t specifically looking at oral care, but what they found was … if they controlled oral disease from birth to death, which isn’t done very often, when it was done, those dogs and cats lived 27% longer,” Moore said.

Pet owners can take a huge step forward in their pet’s health by staying on top of oral hygiene before it causes problems. Moore suggests a two-pronged approach that starts with early brushing of the baby teeth and then continuing with professional oral cleaning.

“The earlier you start, the more you do, the better it is and it costs nothing. The oral cleaning, scaling and polishing with a regular veterinarian is done under anesthesia with full mouth oral radiography is really just a standard of care now. It’s not an unusual thing and it really makes a huge difference,” said Moore.