Make Your Pet’s Dental Health A Priority

How long would you let a serious dental problem go untreated? Chances are, discomfort would bring you to the dentist’s office quickly. But what about your pets? Like us, our household pets are also at risk for dental and gum diseases, some of which can become serious and have lasting systemic effects if untreated.

Each February, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) sponsors National Pet Dental Health Month to help promote regular dental health checkups and home dental care for pets.

Potential Dental Problems in Pets

Like humans, dogs and cats suffer from a range of tooth and gum conditions that may include tooth decay (cavities), tooth discoloration, gingivitis, periodontitis, chipped or broken teeth, and gum recession. It is estimated that by 3 years of age, 80% of dogs and 60% of cats have some type of gum disease. Signs of dental disease in your pet may include bad breath, mouth tenderness, difficulty or pain when chewing, reluctance to eat hard foods, and loss of appetite. If your pet displays any of these symptoms, see your vet.

Home Teeth Cleaning

Regular tooth brushing helps keep our teeth clean and free from cavity-causing debris and food particles. The same is true for our pets. Food matter that becomes trapped between teeth attracts bacteria that can damage tooth enamel and promote gum disease. Luckily you can help prevent dental disease by brushing your pets’ teeth once or twice weekly at home.

Some animals acclimate to tooth brushing easily, while others may take some coaxing. If you have a reluctant pet, try introducing your pet to the toothbrush and toothpaste slowly. Pet toothpaste (flavored like mint, beef, or chicken) can be purchased at your veterinarian or your local pet store. (Never use human toothpaste because the foaming agents it contains can make pets nauseated.) Always use a soft-bristle toothbrush on pets. Put a small amount of paste on your pet’s lips and let them taste it. Reward your pet with a treat. Do this regularly until your pet becomes accustomed to the toothpaste. Next, apply some paste to the brush and let your pet lick it. Again remember to reward with treats. Once your pet is willing to let you brush its teeth, the procedure is simple—gently draw your pet’s lips back and run the toothbrush along the outer surface of the teeth along the gum line at a 45º angle. Proceed gently but quickly to remove any plaque and debris. If your pet becomes squirmy or resistant, stop and try again later. Start brushing in short intervals, whatever your pet will tolerate, then move to longer (30 sec) sessions. To maintain your pet’s dental health, try a dental care chew toy. This can help loosen debris and keep your pet’s mouth healthy between cleanings.

Teeth Cleaning at Your Vet

The process begins with a complete physical and oral exam. A treatment plan will be made and discussed with the owner to go over what needs to be done. Anesthesia is required for a full oral evaluation and cleaning. The vet will take x-rays to evaluate the health of the teeth, roots, and jaw. This is done because 60% of the tooth is below the gumline. The vet will scale your pet’s teeth (to remove dental plaque and tartar) and will then polish the teeth, as in human dentistry. Your pet may require several hours to recover from sedation but typically won’t be kept overnight.

At Richmond Road Veterinary Clinic and Tates Creek Animal Hospital, we take your pet’s dental health seriously. Our trained staff of caring professionals is experienced in providing the best in the dental cleaning and oral health care to all our patients. Ask our staff about ways you can help keep your pet’s teeth healthy at home. And even if your pet is healthy, we encourage regular wellness checkups to keep your pet in top condition! Contact us today for more information.

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