It’s important to take care of your pet’s teeth in between dental cleanings. We brush our own teeth every day and the dentist still recommends we have a professional cleaning and exam done every 6 months. Imagine what your mouth would be like if you never brushed. Our pets can’t brush and floss for themselves, we have to do it for them. Not every pet will let you brush their teeth, there are other things you can do too.
Routine brushing is the best thing you can do for your pet’s oral health. Regular toothpaste contains fluoride which pets can’t have. Your veterinarian’s office and pet stores will have toothpaste made for pets. You can also pick up a little toothbrush while you’re there. A toddler toothbrush is small and soft enough for pets also.
Anything you can do is better than nothing, but daily proper brushing is best. Some pets will be perfectly happy to have their teeth brushed with chicken flavored toothpaste, yum. Some dogs and most cats won’t get used to brushing no matter how hard you try. It’s best to start slowly, brush only the front teeth at first and only for a few seconds. Gradually work your way up until you can do a thorough brushing of the front and back sides of every tooth. If you need help with proper brushing technique, your veterinarian’s office would be happy to make an appointment for a technician help you.
Antiseptic solutions are applied directly to your pet’s teeth. Chlorhexidine solutions are the most commonly used to help reduce plaque and gingivitis. The nice thing about them is most of them smell minty fresh, but they don’t taste very good, especially to cats. There are other solutions on the market that can also be effective.
Treats and Foods
Tartar control diets can decrease tartar and plaque. There are prescription diets available that contain abrasives to scrape plaque from the teeth with chewing, they also are larger than regular kibbles to increase chewing time.
Rawhide chews are also routinely used for tartar control. While rawhides are abrasive to clean the teeth as a dog chews them, we don’t recommend them due to the possibility of a GI obstruction from a dog swallowing a chunk.
There are many treats and foods available that claim to help with dental health. Many of them are not effective.
There are several water additives on the market. Many of them are ineffective. Your veterinarian should carry one they recommend that has proven research behind it. The nice thing about water additives is you don’t have to mess with your pet’s mouth to use them. Every time you give your pet fresh water, just add the recommended amount to the bowl and you’re done. When starting an additive, make sure your pet is still drinking water. If not, you may need to try a different one.
While at home dental care is very important, it is not a substitute for a yearly oral exam and dental cleaning. Cleaning your pet’s teeth is not the only thing that happens during a professional cleaning. Stay tuned next week for details on what happens when your pet has a “dental”.