The oral health of our pets is affected by several factors. The individual pet’s breeding, diet, desire to chew, and salivary characteristics can lead to one having significant dental disease, while another does not. Dental disease can have profound effects on systemic health and cause chronic infection and pain.
As you are aware, veterinarians clean and remove teeth if needed to return a pet to oral health. That health will slowly suffer and revert to disease if no oral health maintenance is used. Periodontal disease is never cured, it is managed. Lack of home care leads to the need for another dental prophylaxis and slowly, teeth may be lost.
Oral bacteria produce a creamy film called plaque. Plaque acids etch the enamel, inflame the gums and can start mineralizing into tartar in just 48 hours. Daily, you can reduce the adhesion of plaque and aid its removal to prevent the progress of dental disease.
Before the Dental Procedure
Note the significant buildup of tartar on the teeth. The gums are also reddened, indicating gingivitis.
After the Dental Procedure
After thorough ultrasonic scaling and polishing, you can see vast improvement. The tartar has been removed and the gingivitis will resolve within days. (Note, however, that this will return unless home care is performed regularly!)
There are three areas in which you can make an impact on your pet’s dental health: home care, diet selection, and provision of treats.
Brushing or rubbing plaque off the teeth is best done after meals every 12 to 48 hours. We suggest cleaning every evening after eating and before sleep. Soft-bristled tooth brushes made for pets or people are best, however, rubber finger brushes and even pieces of gauze over the finger can work well. Toothpastes made for pets are flavored to promote acceptance of the procedure. The following is an approach developed for cats, however, some dogs may require a similar approach:
- Get your pet familiar to the sight and smell of the toothbrush and paste. Put a little tasty toothpaste on the brush and set it down. Allow the pet to explore this on its own. You can try putting a little paste on your finger and let the pet lick it off. Most animals love the taste! You will want to follow this session up with a reward such as a favorite treat or lots of praise. It is important to link the activity to the reward for future compliance. Do this once a day for a week.
- In week two, you will place a little paste on your finger and gently dab it on the canine tooth (a fang tooth). An upper tooth will likely be the easiest. Go slow and relax. Follow with a treat afterward and lots of praise. Do this step once daily for one week.
- In the third week, you will load up the toothbrush with some paste and hold this up to the pet’s mouth. Allow your pet to lick the paste off the bristles. Do not forget a treat afterwards and lots of praise. Do this step once daily for one week.
- The final step will be when you are actually brushing your pet’s teeth. Lift the lip up and hold the brush at a 45 degree angle. Slide the brush over the cheek teeth concentrating your efforts on the surface between the tooth and gum tissue. Do not use pressure or force! A gentle rubbing will be enough to disrupt the plaque on the tooth’s surface. Brush both sides and then finish with a quick rub over the front teeth (the incisors). Do not worry about the insides of the teeth – the tongue acts as a brush to those areas. Make sure to follow up with a special treat and praise.
A new development in pet dental care is Oravet. This is a barrier sealant that alters the polarity or electric charge on the tooth surface. This prevents bacteria and plaque from adhering. The teeth are treated by re-application at home weekly, where a thin layer is applied with a finger. Please inquire for a demonstration on your pet.
Simply put, large pieces of dry crunchy food help keep the teeth the cleanest. This provides more abrasion and oral motion than small pieces, canned or soft moist (burger) type foods. The best teeth cleaning formulations have pieces the size of a walnut for large dogs and correspondingly smaller sizes for small dogs and cats. These are puff kibbles and penetrate further, scraping the sides of the tooth like an apple does for us. They can be used as treats between meals also. Let us know if you are interested in trying them.
Not all treats or chew toys are safe and effective at cleaning teeth. Hooves, hard plastic, and natural bones can all lead to broken or fractured teeth in strong chewers like many medium and large breed dogs. Soft treats often contain large amounts of sugar and stick to the teeth. These are especially popular for cats. Rawhide “chips” that are about the size of an index card are best. Similarly, the compressed cigar-shapped sticks are good too and both can be given twice daily without gastrointestinal upset. Larger rawhides eaten quickly can create diarrhea, so you must know your dog. Softened compressed bones, such as greenies, may be of some dental benefit, but should be withheld from dogs that swallow large pieces without chewing.
This is an example of the radiographs which can be taken at our hospital. These images are stored electronically in each pet’s files and referred to both before and during the procedure (to determine the health of the teeth and see if there are any issues, such as abscesses, root health or cervical line lesions which we cannot see with the naked eye).
Miska – a “new” cat after her dental! a shining example of the profound difference a dental procedure can have in the life of your pet. Please see below the email we received from a thankful client…..
Ever since Miska’s dental visit, she has been a “new” cat!! Oh my!!! She runs around the house chasing her siblings, at times she even dares to challenge them. At mealtime, after inhaling her portion, she goes to Skippy’s bowl and just pushes him out of the way as if to say “Ok bud, you’ve got to watch that waistline of yours so I’ll finish this for you!!!” (Sooooo considerate!) Rudy, Skippy and Flossie Mae are not used to these shenanigans of hers. She’s become very vocal, especially when we try to dose her with the prescribed antibiotic. She lets us know in no uncertain terms that this is not what she wants! Her purr factor has gone up 20 decibels. You all deserve a very large thank you. You gave us back the “real” Miska we really hadn’t known.
~Marguerite and Michael Jandreau