Current estimates are that 80-85% of our pets suffer from dental disease. Dental care begins in puppy/kittenhood, as you teach your new family member to tolerate having their teeth brushed. You’ll want to get a toothbrush that fits your pet’s mouth. Also be sure to use toothpaste made for dogs and cats, which comes in flavors that they tend to prefer, such as beef, poultry, and fish. Human toothpaste should be avoided; they contain ingredients that are not safe for our pets.

While you’re brushing, examine your pet’s teeth to make sure a permanent tooth hasn’t come in next to a baby tooth that refuses to fall out. This happens most often with the large canine teeth — especially in small breeds. If both teeth stay, it can cause overcrowding and can interfere with proper growth and placement of the adult tooth, as well as creating a perfect place for bacteria to hide. If you notice this problem, make an appointment for a dental exam.

Dental exams should be performed at least annually; it is recommended every 6 months as part of your pet’s regular wellness exam. Our veterinarian will examine your pet’s teeth for damage as well as for plaque and tartar. Plaque is the yellow, gummy substance that sticks to teeth; it hardens to become tartar. Daily toothbrushing helps to remove plaque, but once tartar forms, it can be removed only by professional dental cleaning. Plaque and tartar harbor bacteria, which attacks the teeth, gums, bones, and surrounding structures. As periodontal disease progresses, deep infections, pain, and tooth loss occurs. Smaller breed dogs are at high risk. Bacteria from periodontal disease can also enter the bloodstream and affect the liver, kidneys, and heart, causing further problems. When examining your pet’s mouth, our veterinarian will also look for abnormal lumps or growths. Any evidence of tooth resorption will be addressed immediately as this is a painful condition commonly seen in older cats.

Our own dentists recommend dental cleanings at least every 6 months to support health of the whole body. We now know that our pets benefit from dental cleanings as well. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommends annual dental cleanings as the gold standard of care and as part of complete preventive care.

The best care you can provide at home, between dental cleanings, is daily tooth brushing. Not all pets will permit this, however. Other options include dental hygiene chews, specially formulated foods, mouth rinses, and water additives to round out a dental care regimen. We can help determine the best choices for your pet. Lastly, when purchasing dental products that were not specifically recommended by the veterinary team, be sure to look for the VOHC seal. It indicates that a product has been independently tested and approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council.