• Dr. Lyana Buckwold

A NEW YEAR, A NEW MOUTH: Preparing for Dental Month!

By their third birthday, most dogs and cats have dental disease. Without treatment, this disease can worsen causing your pet to have pain, chronic infection, and even bone. Dental disease can also complicate management of many chronic diseases such as diabetes, and heart, kidney, and liver disease.

Dental disease begins when plaque, a gooey mixture of bacteria, food, and saliva, stays in the mouth and hardens into tartar in a process that only takes 2 days to occur. Plaque and tartar promote a perfect area for bacteria and inflammation to grow causing gingivitis, bone loss, and root decay. By removing plaque and tartar frequently we can prevent most common dental diseases in pets.

Removing plaque requires daily home care

Daily to every-other-day tooth brushing is best way to remove plaque before it hardens into tartar. Too much plaque will turned into tartar if you brush your pet’s teeth only once a week and therefore will be ineffective at reducing tartar buildup. Patience, consistency, and a gradual approach are needed to train dogs and cats to tolerate their teeth being brushed. Special pet tooth pastes mush be used when brushing a pet’s teeth as human tooth pastes are neither safe nor palatable to pets. To brush your pet’s teeth, you can use a soft, baby tooth brush or a finger tooth brush. For larger dogs, there are doggie tooth brushes available that can help reach the teeth at the back of the mouth.'s

How to Brush Your Pet's Teeth

Though not as effective as tooth brushing, many other pet products can reduce plaque in varying degrees. These products include Chlorohexidine oral rinses and gels, dental diets, and dental chews and treats.

  • Chlorohexidine oral rinses and gels are basically a safer alternative to Listerine for dogs and cats. An antiseptic, it kills bacteria, and therefore plaque (which is 80% bacteria). Rinses can be sprayed onto a dog’s mouth, and gels can be placed on a pet’s teeth and gum. Not all animals will tolerate the taste of these products.

  • Dental diets are specially made dry food diets that are either able to mechanically remove plaque when a pet chews or that contain an anti-tartar ingredient. Simply providing your pets with a general kibble diet will not necessarily improve their oral health.

  • Dental treats and chews can increase a pet’s salivation or mechanically remove sections of plaque.

  • When giving any dental treat or chew to your pet make sure that it can bend and take it away from your pet before it becomes too small to be swallowed.

  • Chews that cannot bend (such as bones) can break teeth or damage gums and dental chews when swallowed risk getting stuck in your pet’s in the esophagus, stomach, or intestines.

When evaluating a dental product, look for the VOHC seal of approval. This seal indicates that research validating the product’s claims has been reviewed and approved by a group of dental specialists who were appointed by the American Veterinary Dental College. A complete list of VOHC approved products is available at

Removing tartar requires veterinary care

Once it has formed, the best way to remove tartar is through a dental cleaning. Tartar exists both above and below the gum-line and therefore nee

ds to be removed using special instruments that clean both above and below the gum-line. Following tartar removal, the teeth need to be polished to prevent new plaque from sticking to the tinny indents created during the cleaning process. Because animals do not understand what is happening during a dental procedure, the safest, most effective, and most pain-free way to perform a dental cleaning is under anesthesia.

Due to the monitoring and time required for dental procedures, they can be expensive. Because February is National Pet Dental Health Month, many veterinary hospitals and clinics offer discounts on dental services. Please call your veterinarian to see if any dental promotions exist.

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