Veterinary Oral Hygiene

Visit Apex Dog and Cat Dentistry's site here for great insight from veterinary professionals:

Animals need clean teeth just like we do! Plaque, calculus, gingivitis, and periodontal disease occurs in our pets just as it does in us. According to Ray and Eubanks (2009) 75-85% of all dogs and cats will have some form of periodontal disease by age 3 (see article link below). Therefore, just as we need to clean our teeth, we must also tend to our pets, daily.

"When do we start homecare?" We can start when our pets have baby teeth (8-10 weeks of age), and progress to proper daily brushing when they have their adult teeth (3-7 months of age). Toothbrushing is more effective than foods, rinses, and toys because only toothbrush bristles can reach into the gingival sulcus, or the little space between teeth and gums where the really bad bacteria inhabit. Use of veterinary toothpastes rather than human toothpastes is recommended.

"How will my pet like it?" It is important to start as puppies or kittens so that our pets can get used to the process. Do not force the issue or attempt to clean an aggressive pet. See your veterinarian for suggestions with an uncooperative pet.

"How do I brush?" Your veterinarian can demonstrate for you. The brushing motion is the same for humans: small circular motions at the gumline at a 45 degree angle towards the gumline. For our pets, concentrate on the canines and the cheek surfaces of the back teeth (premolars and molars).

"What about rinses, diets, and toys?" These alternatives are not as effective but can be used in addition to brushing. Ask your veterinarian about these alternatives, especially if your pet does not tolerate brushing. Be careful with chew toys that may be too hard and can fracture your pet's teeth. These include cow hooves and bones (cooked, uncooked, nylon, and rawhide). Even tennis balls can wear down your pets teeth to the point of sensitivity or even pain. Pig ears and rawhide strips are usually soft enough but may result in digestive problems. Be careful with water additives containing xylitol as too much xylitol may be toxic or cause digestive problems. Ask your veterinarian about waxy polymers or the Porphyromonas (Periodontal) vaccine.

"My pets have stronger teeth and they will be ok." This isn't true. The reason why our pets and even animals in the wild don't have cavities as often as humans is due to diet. If our pets ate the same acidic, sugary, and high carbohydrate diet multiple times per day like we do then they too would have many cavities. Animals do get cavities and undergo extractions, fillings, root canals, even crowns as treatment. As stated above, they too will have plaque and calculus, gingivitis and periodontal disease. Just like us, some animals are more susceptible than others.

Don't forget to care for your own teeth and gums! I've seen human patients with much worse calculus than the primates at the KC Zoo!

Here is the link to the article with the information above.

Ray JD, Eubanks DL. Dental Homecare: Teaching Your Clients to Care for Their Pet's Teeth. J Vent Dent. 26(1):57-60, Spring 2009.

Check out this page of Apex Dog and Cat Dentistry's website regarding professional cleanings for your pets:

Dr. Blake does not advise sealants on any pet unless regular checkups are performed. As seen in humans, without replacement of the sealants every 5-7 years the sealant will breakdown and bacteria will leak under the sealant and create a cavity under the sealant that cannot be seen clinically. Yes, some sealants can last 10-15 years. However, it is too common for us to remove a leaking sealant and find a large cavity underneath.