"Open wide, please!" are familiar words while visiting the dentist. We get our annual check-ups, our teeth cleaned and polished, generally leaving the dentist's office flashing a brilliant smile. How many of us offer the same regular preventive dental care to our pets? Keeping our pet's teeth clean and their gums healthy is a crucial part of maintaining a robust condition. While my cats get their annual dental examination, and prophylaxis, I brush their teeth several times a week to keep those teeth pearly white. Not only does it serve to remove placque, which helps prevent periodontal disease, but also it can reduce cavities and tooth loss. Keeping our pet's mouths clean and healthy contributes to their overall health; their ability to chew their food properly and, of course gets rid of nasty bad breath. Dr. Jonathon Dodd, a clinical associate professor at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, shares the essentials for maintaining sound dental health. "Brushing is the gold standard for dental health", Dodd says. He suggests that using a pediatric or rubber triangular shaped fingertip toothbrush to clean your pet's teeth is an excellent way to clean their teeth. Pets accept these items much more easily than a standard toothbrush. They become accustomed to handling their mouths if we introduce it slowly and patiently. In conjunction with regular grooming, it also deepens the bond between pet and their human caretaker. He suggests the use of toothpastes that are specially designed for pets. There are wide varieties of flavors available, which help pets accept the process more readily. These products may be purchased at your local pet store, or through your veterinarian's office. The most efficient of these toothpastes are those that contain enzymatic ingredients or chlorhexidine, as they are antibacterial and antiseptic in the mouth. Purchase brands that are stamped with a Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of approval, much like the ones we purchase for ourselves, stamped with the seal of approval of the American Dental Association. Chew toys for dogs and safe meat bones are very helpful as they also remove tartar from the teeth. However, according to Dr. Lisa Pierson, DVM, "Long -standing claims that cats have less dental disease when they are fed dry food is grossly overrated, inaccurate and are not supported by recent studies." She states that many veterinarians are realizing that feeding dry food in an attempt to help keep teeth clean is a myth that needs to be dispelled. Since dry food shatters, it has little abrasive effect on the teeth, can become stuck between the teeth, which attract germs. She suggests that in addition to brushing their teeth, feeding large chunks of raw or cooked meat or gizzards to cats, (which their teeth are designed to chew), may more effectively help maintain a healthy mouth. New on the horizon is a recently released vaccine developed to help prevent periodontal disease. This vaccine fights bacteria that cause periodontitis. It is designed to prevent bone loss around the teeth as well. While the vaccine is an exciting addition to pet care, it is an aid to prevent diseases of the mouth and is not meant to replace regular brushing and routine dental care. Do you regularly brush your pet’s teeth? Leave a comment and share.
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