Preventative dental care is one of the most neglected pet health needs, yet, it is just as important for your pet as it is for you. While cavities do occur in both dogs and cats, gum disease is the most common and serious pet dental problem. Gum disease is caused by a buildup of plaque below the gum line. If it is not removed, it hardens, causing gums to recede and bacteria to form. This bacteria infects the gums, and if left unattended, your pet's teeth could eventually loosen and fall out. Bacteria can also be carried throughout the body and weaken the liver, kidneys, and heart, and lower the pet's resistance to illness. To help prevent gum disease, take your pet to the veterinarian for a regular dental cleaning. In addition, your pet's dental care should continue at home. Ask your veterinarian if there are certain types of pet food that can help provide dental benefits. Pet stores also offer both toothpastes and mouthwashes that can be used on your pet, as well as chew toys that can help remove plaque. For more information on pet dentistry, contact a veterinarian in your area.