Dental Health Care in Cats and Dogs
Fern Hill Veterinary Care
Pet Dental Health Resources
What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is inflammation and infection of the tissues that surround the teeth. In the early stages (gingivitis), the gums become swollen, red, and may bleed. As inflammation and infection progress (periodontitis), the gums pull away from the tooth, bone is lost, and the teeth become loose or may even fall out.
What can be done to reduce dental disease and save our pets' teeth?
Brushing your pet’s teeth after eating and using safe, independently approved products can help slow plaque and tartar buildup. One list of safe options can be found on the Veterinary Oral Health Council website.
Keeping tartar buildup to a minimum is the best way to slow the progression of periodontal disease.
Doxirobe gel, applied in periodontal pockets at the time of a dental cleaning, can be helpful in some cases of early periodontal disease.
Finally, help prevent broken teeth by eliminating any chew toys that you can’t indent with your fingernail.
A semi-annual exam is a great time for a full oral examination to assess your pet’s oral health and discuss appropriate recommendations.
When is oral surgery and tooth extraction indicated?
Unfortunately, when periodontal disease is advanced, tooth extraction is indicated. If we do not surgically remove the teeth, they may break off painfully. They are also a source of constant infection, allowing bacteria easy access to the bloodstream.
Fractured or Broken Teeth
Fractured teeth often also need to be surgically removed if the fracture extends into the vital pulp of the tooth or above the gumline. If these teeth are not removed, gradual infection is often the result. Some fractured teeth can be candidates for a root canal.
Pro Tip: Never allow your dogs to chew on any toys or chew that you cannot indent with your fingernail!
Root canals, implants, braces, and other advanced dental procedures are sometimes options as well. We will let you know if your pet is a good candidate for any of these options. These procedure are performed by board-certified veterinary dentists.
Home Dental Care
Just like with our mouths, daily brushing is an ideal way to help prevent dental disease. It’s great to introduce this to puppies and kittens, but many adult pets learn to tolerate brushing if introduced patiently and positively.
How to brush your pet’s teeth: When properly and regularly performed, tooth brushing has been proven to be the most effective means of plaque control. To safely and effectively initiate tooth brushing, remember to start slowly. Not every dog or cat has the same tolerance level. Ideally, toothbrushing is performed daily to give the best results.
Toothbrushes: There are numerous veterinary brushes available, including ones that fit on the tip of your finger. In addition to veterinary products, soft human toothbrushes with nylon filaments may be substituted. A child’s toothbrush is often the correct size for small patients and may be more effective than the larger veterinary version. An infant brush may work best for toy-bred dogs, cats, or juvenile patients.
Gauze and wipes are less ideal since they don’t clean under the gumline. However, if that’s all your pet will tolerate, these may be suitable alternatives to a brush. Something is better than nothing.
Toothpaste: Veterinary-specific toothpaste is recommended. Enzymatic pet toothpaste contains enzymes that help reduce bacteria, which can lessen tartar buildup and improve bad breath. Human toothpastes are not recommended.
To introduce brushing:
1. For the first week, allow your pet to lick a small pea-sized drop of toothpaste off your finger; immediately follow with a treat and praise.
2. In the second week, allow your pet to lick the toothpaste off the toothbrush; immediately follow with a treat and praise.
3. The third week, rub the flavored toothpaste on your pet’s front teeth with the toothbrush on the table in view; immediately follow with a treat and praise.
4. In the fourth week, begin brushing the outside surface of the teeth with the mouth closed; reward with a treat and praise. Begin by placing a toothbrush between the lips and outside surfaces of the teeth with the mouth closed. It may help to only do a small area of the mouth one day at a time. Do not force while brushing. The toothbrush is placed at a 45-degree angle to the gum line and, using a circular motion, the outside surfaces of the teeth are brushed.
Tooth brushing is not always a great fit, and that’s OK! There are adjunctive measures to try. Please visit VOHC.org (Veterinary Oral Health Council) for safe and effective home dental care products. These products can also help slow dental and periodontal disease.
There are products for every pet including diets, water additives, treats and wipes. And, as always, we are here to help.
Here’s to healthy mouths and fresh pet breath!