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February is National Pet Dental Health Month

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Brushed your pet’s teeth lately? Can you imagine what your teeth would be like if you hadn’t brushed them for a year or more? Talk about a bad taste in your mouth! Well, our pets can’t brush their teeth so this is what they experience. As a responsible pet owner we owe it to our pets to take good care of them: we feed them the right foods, exercise with them regularly, practice good preventative care by taking them to your pet’s vet at least once and preferably twice a year for well care visits, but do you remember to do something daily for your pet’s teeth? February is National Pet Dental Health Month and a great reminder that dental health is more than just teeth; your pet’s oral hygiene affects the entire well-being of your pet. Diseases of the mouth can often be painful and can contribute to additional health problems. Having regular dental checkups and having your pet’s teeth cleaned are important to ensuring a positive quality of life. So flip those lips, smell that breath. Make it a routine to brush pet’s teeth daily!

According to the American Veterinary Dental Society (AVDS) 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show signs of dental disease by age three, often indicated by halitosis (bad breath), changes in eating habits, pawing at the face and mouth, bleeding gums and even aggression likely due to a painful mouth! Periodontal disease which occurs under the gum line -away from even the most diligent pet owner’s eyes- is the most under- treated animal health problem. Don’t skimp on regular preventative dental care. When your veterinary technician or veterinarian teaches you about preventative dental care in the exam room with recommendation for brushing, chewing aids and dental foods, it’s because we want to start preventative dental care at an early age. If we start good dental habits with our pets early we can often avoid costly intervention for dental infections and other problems such as broken teeth, gum abscesses, cavities, and pain.

Dental disease starts when plaque inflames the gum line which is called gingivitis and is reversible with daily home dental care and regular dental cleanings performed in your veterinary health care hospital. If your pet has reddened or bleeding gums, this condition is defined as gingivitis.

Gingivitis, when allowed to remain, progresses into periodontitis or inflammation of the tissues around the teeth. If left untreated periodontal disease progresses into a painful mouth, with tooth loss and potential involvement of other important organs such as the heart and kidneys. Commonly, physical signs of dental disease are not obvious, even when it is advanced. That’s why it is so important to have your pet’s teeth checked regularly by your veterinary health care team.

It’s often asked, who should clean my pet’s teeth? And the answer is similar to when you go to your dentist. A trained veterinary nurse or the veterinarian will clean your pet’s teeth just like your hygienist cleans human teeth. The veterinarian is however responsible for examining your pet’s teeth, mouth, and other accompanying structures like the lymph nodes, area under the tongue, and bone structure of the jaw and surrounding soft tissues. Only a veterinarian should extract teeth and perform other dental procedures such as gum surgery on your pet. In some cases you may be recommended to a board certified veterinary dental specialist for procedures such as root canals, other endodontic, periodontic, or orthodontic needs found at this dental examination and evaluation.

A groomer may brush your pet’s teeth saving you the daily brushing for that day, but neither your groomer nor anyone other than your veterinarian should clean your pet’s teeth. People who are not trained in proper dental care generally scrape off or remove the large chunks of tartar that they can see. This “procedure” can lead to damaged enamel of the tooth surface, may promote accelerated dental disease and does not address the main problem of dental diseases -the tissues surrounding the tooth. Such “cleanings” may give you a false sense of security that your pet’s teeth are being treated when they really are not.

In addition to professional dental care, pet owners can make oral home care part of their pet’s routine as a way to protecting dental health and preventing tooth decay.

Pet owners can take an active role in their pet’s dental health care:

  • Learn to brush your pet’s teeth. As your veterinary health care team we can teach you safe and effective safe ways to brush your pet’s teeth. After all we don’t want you to be bitten trying to do something good for your pet. Although daily tooth brushing is the “gold standard” only 2% of pet owners follow though. It’s best to start early but even adult dogs, cats, and ferrets can learn to accept daily brushing. Use of specially-formulated enzymatic tooth pastes are used as human toothpastes are meant to be spit out and have ingredients that are upsetting to the stomach of pets when swallowed.

  • Feed a high quality diet. Ask your pet’s vet about foods and treats with proven dental health benefits in plaque and tartar control.

  • Provide chew toys and treats that stimulate gums and help clean teeth

Give us a call today to schedule your pet’s dental cleaning at a discounted rate for the month of February.