A Team Sport: Pet Dental Care
Bad breath in your pet may be common, but it’s not normal! It’s often the first sign of dental disease. It is estimated that by the time pets are 4 years of age, 85% have some form of dental disease. That statistic is reason enough to embark on a regular professional dental cleaning program, coupled with at-home pet dental care.
With a focus on your pet’s dental health, dental disease in pets is entirely preventable!
Dental Disease Unraveled
First, let’s unravel dental disease. Periodontal disease occurs when plaque forms on the teeth and combines with minerals in saliva, forming tartar (dental calculus). Plaque and tartar attract bacteria, which eventually collect on the teeth and below the gum line, causing inflammation known as gingivitis.
Once the bacteria migrate below the gum line, infection, tooth fractures, and tooth loss can occur. Left untreated, bacteria from dental disease eventually enters the bloodstream and can cause damage to the heart, liver, and kidneys.
Pet Dental Care Begins at Home
Dental care is best started at home, when your pet is young. Getting your new puppy or kitten used to daily tooth brushing can be fun and effective. And, even with an older pet, daily tooth brushing can be done with patience and a positive attitude. Here are some tips:
- Start in a calm environment
- Use a pet toothbrush and pet toothpaste
- Touch the teeth and mouth without the brush, praising as you go
- Touch the toothbrush to the teeth
- Let your pet lick the toothpaste from your finger
- Apply toothpaste to the brush and brush the top front teeth
- Gradually work your way to the top back teeth
- Eventually, work your way to the bottom teeth, starting in front and moving back
Between each step, stop and praise your pet. Getting through all these steps may take many brushing sessions and days of patience and praise. Don’t give up! Our technicians are happy to help show you how to brush during your visit with us.
Other ways to discourage dental disease include dental diets, chews, and water additives. Any combination of these might be recommended to help prevent dental disease and control plaque buildup at home. None of them substitute for brushing and professional cleanings, but they can be an effective addition to an at-home program.
Make sure any treats or chews you give are certified as effective by the Veterinary Oral Health Council, or ask us for recommendations.
Professional Dental Cleanings
Even with the best at-home dental care, all pets need their teeth professionally cleaned periodically. How often depends on your pet’s overall health and their dental health.
A professional dental cleaning under anesthesia is necessary to thoroughly clean under the gum line. Without this step, the plaque and bacteria that are under the gum line go undisturbed and continue to cause problems. Anesthesia today is safer than ever, with advanced monitoring equipment and highly trained veterinary technicians to monitor your pet’s safety and comfort.
We’ll evaluate all the structures in your pet’s mouth, take digital x-rays so we can see under the gumline and the bone below, and then polish your pet’s teeth to prevent further plaque buildup.
Pet dental care is a team sport, with you and your veterinarian working together to prevent and treat dental problems. At Wellesley-Natick Veterinary Hospital, we firmly believe that an effective at-home dental care program, coupled with regular visits, can prevent dental disease.