2/2/18 February is Dental Month!

Dental care is one of the most underrated facets of pet health care. We brush twice daily to remove plaque, but your pet does not. Plaque is a bacterial layer that leads to periodontal disease; when left on the tooth surface for too long, it will mineralize to become tartar. Think of tartar as a protective house for plaque, and plaque is hiding in that house and up to no good. Though our pets can’t tell us that their mouth hurts, they often give us signs that something isn’t right. Halitosis is the first sign of periodontal disease (infection around and outside the teeth). When symptoms worsen your pet may be less interested in chewing. Sometimes cats and dogs will have a reduced appetite since chewing on hard kibble can cause further pain to already inflamed gums.

Healthy canine teeth

Moderate/severe periodontal disease

Approximately 85% of pets have periodontal disease by the age of three, but luckily it is mostly treatable and preventable. If you notice halitosis, gum redness, tartar or pain, your first step should be calling us to discuss a dental cleaning. Regular teeth brushing is highly effective to prevent periodontal disease, but it can’t scrape off the thick layer of tartar. When your cat or dog comes in for a dental cleaning, the first thing we do is take full mouth x-rays. Teeth that appear normal and healthy can have problems under the gum line, such as tooth root abscess, broken teeth, or retained roots. Each tooth is evaluated for pockets, which pose high risk for gingivitis, and individually scored so the doctors have a reference for any future dental concerns. Tartar is removed from the crowns and below the gum line on all aspects of the teeth. Once your pet has recovered from the dental procedure, home dental care helps maintain your pet’s pearly whites.

Healthy feline teeth

Severe periodontal disease

There are several options for home dental care. You can make brushing a positive experience by having treats at the ready and lots of praise. Ease into brushing; start by letting your pet just smell and lick the toothpaste, and gradually work up to placing the toothbrush in his or her mouth, eventually brushing the whole mouth. A good training video for brushing your cat’s teeth can be viewed here . For dogs, please click here:

We also carry Maxiguard gel, which is a flavorless anti-microbial gel that simply goes along the gum line and helps prevent bacterial build up.

There are also chews specifically designed for dental care. We carry CET, Veggiedent and Oravet chews which can mechanically remove plaque. Many owners give their dogs antlers, cow hooves, or bones as a chewy treat, but these types of chew objects are extremely hard and run the risk of breaking a tooth. Even Nylabones, an incredibly hard plastic bone-shaped toy, can pose a risk to your dog. Some safe alternatives include rawhides, Kong toys and the Pickle Pocket. Be sure to supervise your dog if you choose to give them any tasty chew since these can be choking hazards for some dogs that do not chew safely.

Dental diets are also an easy and effective means to maintaining your pet’s oral health; the kibbles are typically much larger in size than a typical pet food diet, forcing the animal to chew every bite before swallowing. If your dog eats these kibbles whole, they do not help remove plaque at all. The great thing about these diets is that they are fully balanced, so they can be fed as the sole diet or as a treat. They also taste super yummy; we always have samples of this food at our clinic, so if you are ever curious, feel free to pick up a sample bag!

Drs. Cassy Shoup and Cameron Collins at South Davis Veterinary Center think that this clinic does a great job of discussing anesthesia-free dentistry! Click here to read their opinions and see some interesting x-rays.