We all understand the positive health benefits of brushing our teeth daily, flossing, and using mouthwash. We like when our teeth are white, our gums healthy, and mouth feeling fresh. We make sure that we go to the dentist at least once a year to ensure our mouth is healthy and prevent dental issues from occurring, or at least catch them early. The majority of us even go out of our way to spend more time in the dentist’s chair ensuring our teeth are straight and movie star white.
Everyone wants a healthy mouth and a smile they can be proud of. But what about our furry companions? Just because they have four legs and fur doesn’t make their dental care any less important to their health and wellbeing. In fact, their dental care is more important since they must rely on their fur-less, two-legged companions to take care of it for them. As February is National Pet Dental Health Month, I thought it was important to shine a light on the importance of caring for your pet’s teeth and highlight what every pet parent should know about modern veterinary dentistry.
If you notice your pet’s breath is less than fresh, your pet is most likely exhibiting signs of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is the most common dental condition in dogs and cats, and pets can show signs of the disease by the time they are three years old. The disease starts with the development of plaque, hardens into tartar, and finally builds up under the gumline, which causes infection and damage to the jawbone and surrounding tissue . Without treatment health problems can spread to the kidney, liver, and heart that can significantly affect your pet’s health.
Thankfully, periodontal disease is easily prevented by making sure your veterinarian performs a dental exam at least once a year. Besides a physical exam of the mouth, veterinarians now have the ability to test the severity of the disease on dogs by using an OraStrip. This quick test directly measures the byproduct of bacteria in the mouth that corresponds to the level of infection caused by periodontal disease. Depending on your veterinarian’s findings, your pet may require a dental cleaning or even dental surgery.
All dental cleanings and surgery will require your pet to be put under anesthesia, which with today’s technology is extremely safe and can be performed at any age so long as the pet is in good health. The primary reasons dentals require anesthesia are to be able to safely and effectively perform the procedure without having the pet hurt him or herself by moving around or trying to bite the dental equipment, and to be able to take dental x-rays that often reveal problems occurring under the gumline that cannot be seen upon physical examination. The American Veterinary Dental College does not recommend anesthesia-free dental cleanings as they are ineffective and unsafe; California has made them illegal.
As a pet parent there is much you can do in helping to prevent periodontal disease from affecting your pet’s health. Regular daily brushing is the single most effective method of preventing buildup of plaque and tartar. Another alternative to brushing for dogs, especially if your dog won’t let you, is to try OraVet Chews, which can be found at your local veterinarian. OraVet Chews contain a special ingredient, Delmopinol, that works to form a preventive barrier that blocks bacteria, and the future formation of plaque and tartar that builds up over time.
For more information about dental care or cleanings for your pet, please talk with your veterinarian. And remember, healthy mouths make for healthy and happy pets.