We know it can be hard (mission impossible sometimes!) in this blog post we shed some light on maintaining your pet’s teeth.

Do I really need to brush my pet’s teeth?

In order to prevent oral disease it is necessary to provide your pets with good dental care, both professionally and at home. A dental care program consists of oral examinations by your veterinarian, professional dental cleanings as advised by your veterinarian and daily oral hygiene at home. Daily oral hygiene helps to reduce plaque and tarter formation thus reducing the likelihood of dental decay, gingivitis and periodontal disease.

Plaque is an accumulation of colorless, soft, sticky bacteria that constantly forms on the teeth. Bacterial plaque thrive on the foods consumed by your pet and produce acid as a byproduct. If not removed frequently, plaque can form tarter which is very adherent to the tooth and cannot be removed by brushing. Plaque and tarter can accumulate above and below the gumline. Below the gumline the plaque and tarter can irritate the support for the teeth leading to gingivitis and periodontal disease. Gingivitis is the early, reversible stag of gum disease with classic signs of red, swollen and bleeding gums. Periodontal disease is an irreversible condition that can cause bone loss, pain, abscesses and tooth loss not to mention possible infection to vital organs like the heart and liver. Dental decay does not occur as frequently in pets as gingivitis and periodontal disease.

An effective oral hygiene program begins with proper brushing of your pet’s teeth. If possible, your pet’s teeth should be brushed daily to remove plaque and food debris.

1. Select a toothbrush and toothpaste

You will need either a soft bristle or finger tooth brush and veterinary approved pet toothpaste. It is extremely important that you do not use human toothpaste because it contains ingredients like fluoride that should not be swallowed. Pet toothpaste is completely digestible which is important since your pet can’t spit. In addition, pet toothpaste is available in a variety of flavors that are appealing to dogs and cats. The ideal dog toothbrush has a long handle with an angled head to allow for better access in the mouth. Cat toothbrushes have smaller handles and fine bristles to fit into their smaller mouths better.

2. Get your pet acquainted with the toothbrush and toothpaste

Have your pet get used to the toothpaste by allowing them to lick it off of your finger or place a small amount on one of the front teeth, the canine tooth is the easiest to access. There are several flavors of toothpaste available; you may need to try a few before you find one that your pet likes. Once your pet is used to the consistency and flavor of the toothpaste it is time to introduce the toothbrush. Let your pet lick the toothpaste off of the toothbrush so they get used to the bristles. Continue this step for a few days until your pet looks forward to the “treat” and allows you to actually place the brush in their mouth.

3. Brushing technique

Place the paste in between the bristles of the toothbrush rather than on top. While lifting the lip, place the toothbrush or finger brush at a 45-degree angle towards the gumline of the teeth. Use gentle, small, circular motions starting at the gumline and roll the brush toward the biting edge of the tooth. The majority of the tarter forms on the check side of the teeth therefore it is important to focus on these areas. The inside of the teeth accumulate less tarter and are cleaned by the tongue but you should still brush this area if your pet allows. Initially you may only be able to clean a few teeth at a time but with practice and consistency you will be able to clean the entire mouth.

In addition to brushing the teeth plaque formation can be reduced by feeding dry, crunchy food and giving dental chews or treats. Veterinary oral rinses and water additives are available and have been very effective at fighting plaque and freshening breath. It is best to start an oral hygiene program at an early age however it is better late than never. Contact your veterinarian to establish a dental care program for your pet today.