Are you brushing your pet’s teeth?
Routine dental care is essential for the health and well-being of our pets. We have a daily dental routine for ourselves including brushing, flossing, and regular visits and cleanings with our dentist, so why is it that we so often neglect our pet’s dental health needs?
Dental disease is caused by an accumulation of plaque and tartar, a layer of bacteria, which can migrate under the gum surface leading to gingivitis (inflammation of the gum) and periodontal disease. With periodontal disease, we can see recession of the gumline and bone loss surrounding the tooth which can lead to abscess formation and loose/mobile teeth.. This is very painful. Our pets can be good at hiding signs of pain and illness which is why oral examinations with a veterinarian at least annually are important and why your pets mouth will typically be examined at every visit.
This oral bacteria is not just a local problem either. Dental problems that go untreated not only cause problems in the teeth and gums, but their effects may extend to other areas of the body. Infections from decaying teeth can spread directly to the sinuses and can travel to organs such as the heart, liver and kidneys leading to systemic disease.
At home dental care is important to help reduce and prevent dental tartar and plaque from building up.
Starting this routine at a young age can help your pet become more accustomed to the procedures and helps us create a habit we can stick with. Daily brushing (or at a minimum 3 times a week) is going to be one of the best tools to use. When you first get your puppy or kitten, get them used to the tooth brush and having their lips and mouth touched. You can slowly work your way to brushing the outside surfaces of a few teeth until you are brushing the outsides of the entire mouth. Pick a certain time of day and stick with it! It should only take a few minutes each day.
You can certainly teach old dogs new tricks, you just typically need to be a little more patient and provide even more support and positive reinforcement techniques. Start with just your finger wrapped in gauze and then slowly work up to a brush.
There are other at home dental care options that can be used along with brushing to further improve your pets dental health including water and food supplements/additives, dental chews or toys, oral wipes, etc. The website vohc.org has an entire list of veterinary dentist approved products listed for dogs and cats.
Before starting a new at home dental care routine we recommend consulting with your veterinarian first. If your pet already has periodontal disease it can be painful to start brushing their teeth right away. The disease may need to be corrected first with a professional dental cleaning. For those pets with particularly bad mouths, we can help you improve the balance of microbes in your pets mouth (yes the mouth has a microbiome too!) using prebiotics and amino acids. Correcting these imbalances will improve your pets oral health as you move forward. Afterwards, at home care is still essential to ensure the tartar and plaque do not build back up quickly to create another problem.
We understand that at home dental care can seem daunting and difficult. We are happy to help discuss and create an individualized plan that helps meet both you and your pets needs at their next visit to help keep them happy, healthy and comfortable throughout their life.