I brush my teeth two to three times a day. I floss every other day. I see my dentist and hygienist for a professional evaluation and cleaning every six months. It's a combination of BOTH — daily plaque control at home and regular professional care, that keeps my teeth healthy. When was the last time you did anything to help your pet's teeth stay clean and healthy?
Gingivitis (inflammation of the gum tissue) and periodontitis (inflammation of the deeper tissues around the teeth roots) are caused by an invisible slime of bacteria. This is dental plaque.
Immediately after a professional dental cleaning, the teeth are clean as a whistle. When you brush your teeth at night, they are clean. However, this biofilm accumulates quickly and overnight.
Early plaque is a thin film and oxygen can penetrate it, so the aerobic bacteria tends to be relatively harmless. If the plaque is removed mechanically with a good tooth brushing, it doesn't progress.
However, if the plaque is left undisturbed, it grows thicker. Oxygen can't penetrate all the way through, so harmful, anaerobic bacteria starts to predominate. Within several days, the mature plaque film can accumulate minerals from saliva and food to form hard dental tartar. This mineralized tartar is much harder to remove.
Can you now see why it is important to have a daily plaque control program in place between your pet's professional dental cleanings? Otherwise, the benefits of our dental cleaning are lost within a short space of time.
Tooth brushing and the use of dental diets and treats will keep your pet's teeth, heart and kidneys healthy. We suggest the following:
- Using a finger, brush your pet's teeth with tasty poultry or meat-flavored toothpaste. Brushing daily (or at least 2-3 times weekly) is ideal. Start slowly with rubbing your pet's teeth with your fingers. Repeat several times daily and weekly. Next, place the finger brush on your finger and acclimate your pet to this action several times daily and weekly. Finally, add the toothpaste. The toothpaste is designed not to foam and is acceptable to swallow. Your pet will love the taste and attention!
- C.E.T. chews twice weekly is helpful. These are sterile rawhides coated with an enzyme which is activated by the saliva in the act of chewing. This enzyme (chlorhexidine) strips off the bacterial scum layer of the plaque.
- Use Royal Canin dental dog food as treats. This large food chunk has a matrix that surrounds the tooth and pulls off the plaque and some tartar pieces.
Do not be swayed by the statements on over-the-counter food and treats proclaiming dental care. All of these products touch the chewing surfaces and are then swallowed. None of them actually affect the side surfaces of the teeth or the entire oral cavity where bacteria, the building block for dental disease, begins. We recommend using products that have been awarded the Veterinary Oral Health Council Seal of Acceptance.
Dr. Holly Woltz (Doc Holly) is Chief of Staff at Veterinary Services of Aiken. A former teacher and writer, she enjoys talking and writing about pet health care topics. Doc Holly is also a regular contributor for the Aiken Standard.