Dental health is a very important part of your pet’s overall health, and dental problems can cause, or be caused by, other health problems. Your pet’s teeth and gums should be checked at least once a year by your veterinarian to check for early signs of a problem and to keep your pet’s mouth healthy.
Dental disease starts with plaque. Plaque is a ﬁlm produced by bacteria that continuously forms on the teeth. If plaque is not removed, minerals will start depositing in the plaque and form tartar. The bacteria in the plaque will also spread to the gums, and eventually the tooth attachment and root.
Dental disease is painful. Although some animals will display signs of discomfort or pain (not chewing their food, eating less, not chewing on toys as much, etc), most animals will suffer without their owners noticing any change. Dental disease also impacts the entire body. The bacteria in the mouth can enter the blood stream and cause infections in vital organs such as the liver, the heart and the kidneys. Dental disease is also a constant source of inﬂammation and chronic immune system stimulation.
Although dental home care will not completely avoid or stop dental disease formation, it can slow down progression signiﬁcantly, keeping your pet healthier and reducing the need for professional dental care. Daily brushing is, by far, the best method. The action of the brush removes plaque from the teeth and helps gums stay healthy. If you add a dog enzymatic toothpaste, it will be even more effective. Do not use human toothpastes; they contain substances that can be harmful to pets. Use a soft toothbrush. To get your dog accustomed to brushing, start slowly by handling their muzzle, then rub some tasty toothpaste on the teeth and gums with your ﬁnger (be careful that your dog doesn't bite your ﬁnger thinking it's a treat!) or the toothbrush. Later, start the actual brushing with short sessions every other day. This will give the gums time to get used to the brushing without discomfort. Concentrate on the outside part of the teeth only, and make sure you brush all the way to the back as well as the front teeth. After a couple weeks you may start brushing daily. Other tools and products such as foods and treats can assist with your pet’s dental hygiene. For information on safe and effective dental care products, please visit http://www.vohc.org/
Another very important step in providing the best dental and general care for your pet, is regular examinations and professional dental care. Do not wait until the dental disease is severe before providing professional dental care for your pet. It is far better to treat early to avoid extractions, complications, and higher costs. Like humans, different dogs have different susceptibility to dental disease. Some dogs may need very little professional dental care throughout their lives, but some severely predisposed animals may need it every year, or even more.