Dental disease is the number one diagnosis I make day-in and day-out in our hospital. In fact, a recent nationwide study revealed that 93% of dogs and 88% of cats older than 3 years of age have periodontal disease. Unchecked, dental disease destroys gums, teeth, and bone, and can lead to bacterial infection in the blood stream and vital organs.
Before your pet’s plaque (that slimy bio-film on their teeth) has progressed to periodontal disease, here are 6 proven-effective things you can do to improve their dental health:
Tooth brushing: Yes, I’m sorry to say, brushing your pet’s teeth daily or every other day is the gold-standard to preventing the build-up of plaque. Nothing else comes close. The mechanical action of the brushing coupled with the dissolving action of the toothpaste is key. Sadly, studies show brushing once a week or less had no effect at all on dental health. Be sure to use toothpaste, such as C.E.T., specifically formulated for companion animal use, and stay away from human toothpaste.
Dental wipes: Infused wipes (such as DentAcetic Dental Wipes) are used to mechanically remove the plaque and apply plaque control agents to the teeth. These work well, but be careful as you're putting your fingers in harm's way of teeth that bite.
Cotton-tipped applicators: Think of these as mini-wipes without the plaque control agent. Cats, especially, are more receptive to this type of cleaning, especially if the applicator is dipped in tuna juice.
Diet. Unfortunately, hard food alone does not prevent plaque or tartar accumulation, even with prescription dental diets (such as Purina DH). Yes, the teeth are mechanically cleaned as food is chewed, but only a small number of teeth are involved in the process, and those that aren’t touched don’t benefit.
Soluble dental chews: Some of these (such as C.E.T. Chews) will mechanically remove plaque with chewing, but the same problem exists as with hard food—not all of the teeth are touched. Too, some dental chews have been implicated in choking injuries.
Water additives: These have been developed to be added to a cat or dog’s water. Healthy Mouth seems to be the water additive of choice of veterinary dentists.
There are thousands of dental home care products on the market, but only a small number of these are approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) as they have been proven to remove the accumulation of plaque and/or calculus by at least 20%. Click here for accepted dog products and here for accepted cat products.
Ultimately, a complete dental examination and dental cleaning is the only way to combat periodontal disease once it’s taken root. Give us a call at 281.351.7184 for more info. You can also schedule an appointment at kindvet.com
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