February is Pet Dental Health Month, so this month we'll focus on your pet's smile. Pets need daily dental care just like we do in order to avoid painful disease and tooth loss. While our pets are naturally more resistant to cavities than we are, they frequently suffer from infected tooth roots and painful periodontal disease. So here are the 5 steps to prevent disease (and say goodbye to bad breath):
1) Brush those teeth
Daily brushing with an enzymatic pet toothpaste is the single best way to prevent dental disease and avoid costly treatments. Check out our video for an easy step-by-step guide to getting started. We promise that if you take it slowly (days to weeks) and keep it positive with lots of treats and praise, this will even become enjoyable! The key here is daily - plaque hardens to tartar in just 24 hours, so brushing at monthly grooming appointments won't do much to slow dental disease.
2) Use treats or rinses
Ok, you're still in the training phase or you just don't have time one day to brush those pearly whites. What can you do? Give your pet a VOHC (Veterinary Oral Health Council) approved dental treat, use a dental rinse or water additive, or feed prescription dental diet if appropriate for your pet. Chat with us and be honest - while none of these is as good as brushing, they're all better than no home dental care at all. We can find a strategy for your individual needs.
3) Check the mouth monthly
Lift up your pet's lips and look at the teeth and gums at least once a month. If you notice any odor, cracked or missing teeth, red or swollen gums, or new lumps call us right away. The sooner we catch and address a dental problem the better! You can also feel for the lymph nodes and salivary glands under the skin where the jaw meets the throat. If they're larger than normal or asymmetrical, call us.
4) Get a professional opinion
We will thoroughly examine your pet's mouth during their annual (and biannual for seniors) exams. We look for gingivitis (gum redness, rolling, or swelling), loss of gum attachment, broken or missing teeth, oral masses, odor, and pain. We will of course also examine your entire pet from nose to tail, and perform laboratory tests as needed to look for any subtle changes.
5) Schedule a full cleaning
Most pets will need several (if not yearly) full dental evaluations under anesthesia during their lifetime. During the procedure the teeth are cleaned both below and above the gum line, the entire oral cavity is assessed, radiographs are taken to evaluate the tooth roots, extractions are performed as needed, and sealant can be applied to delay the recurrence of tartar buildup in the future.
Dental disease is linked to heart valve and kidney infections, which are much more difficult to treat than the mouth. Good oral hygiene can prevent these serious consequences, allowing your pet to live a longer and dental pain-free life.