Brushing your dog’s teeth isn’t just about fresh breath. It’s an essential part of good oral care, and good oral care is important to your dog’s overall health. Although most people aren’t aware of it, periodontal, or gum disease is a common, serious problem in dogs. Yet brushing your dog’s teeth can prevent it! Veterinarians estimate that 85 percent of dogs over five years of age suffer from periodontal disease, which develops when food particles and bacteria collect along the gum line and form soft deposits called plaque. Over time, the plaque turns into rock-hard tartar. If tartar isn’t removed from your dog’s teeth, it will eventually inflame their gums. As the inflamed gums begin to separate from the teeth, pockets form in which more bacteria grow, causing periodontal disease to worsen. At this point, your dog can experience severe pain, lose teeth, form abscesses in his mouth and develop a bacterial infection that can spread through the bloodstream to the kidneys, liver, heart or brain. Periodontal disease is irreversible, so now is a great time to get started on a regular oral-care regimen for your dog. Prevention is the key to keeping him healthy and happy.