From new toys and litter boxes, to veterinary visits and vaccines, there is a lot involved in caring for our furry friends, whom we consider family members. One important thing to remember is that like humans, pets require regular dental care and professional teeth cleanings. February is National Pet Dental Health Month, and a reminder that regular dental care is an integral part of your pet’s overall health and wellbeing. Dental disease is one of the most common problems in pets, with more than 80% of pets developing some form of disease by the time they are 3 years old. Without treatment, dental disease can lead to more serious health issues. Your Stone Ridge Veterinary Medical Center team presents dental health basics, and wants to collaborate with you to help ensure your pet’s teeth are healthy throughout all their life stages. 

Establish a home dental health care routine for your pet

If you never brushed your own teeth or went to the dentist, you would likely have bad breath and painful teeth. The same occurs in pets who do not receive regular oral care. Your pet needs twice daily toothbrushing to keep dental disease at bay. However, we understand it can be difficult to find time to brush your pet’s teeth so often, and a minimum of only three times a week can be beneficial, according to the National Pet Dental Health Association. Consistency is key, and the best routine for you and your pet is one that is realistic and manageable. Follow these steps to implement a toothbrushing routine for your pet:

  • Choose a pet-safe toothpaste approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC). Never give your pet human toothpaste, because most include ingredients that are toxic to pets. 
  • Start by offering your pet toothpaste on your finger as a treat or reward. 
  • Once your pet is comfortable and accepts the toothpaste, put the paste on your finger and gently rub it over their gums and teeth in a brushing motion.
  • Choose a pet-specific or children’s toothbrush that fits comfortably in your pet’s mouth. Allow your pet to investigate the brush before putting it in their mouth.
  • Use generous verbal praise and belly rubs during and after each toothbrushing session. 

Some pets will not accept regular toothbrushing, but never force your pet to participate. If you are unsuccessful at establishing a brushing routine, consider using VOHC-approved oral rinses, treats, or dental wipes for your pet. 

Schedule regular wellness examinations for your pet

Your pet’s regular wellness examinations will ensure they are closely monitored throughout all life stages. Your pet may appear healthy and be behaving normally at home, but may still give subtle clues that something is wrong. For example, your pet’s bad breath is not normal and may indicate that they have dental disease. Additionally, pets often hide signs of pain, especially oral pain.

During your pet’s wellness examinations, our Stone Ridge veterinarian will check your pet from nose to tail, including a comprehensive oral exam to search for clues, such as tartar, that dental disease is present. However, most dental disease occurs below the gumline, so your veterinarian may recommend an oral exam and dental cleaning while your pet is anesthetized. Identifying dental problems early will prevent them from escalating into more serious dental disease. General anesthesia allows our veterinarians to thoroughly examine and clean your pet’s mouth and teeth and keep your pet safe and pain-free. Our entire veterinary team has advanced dentistry training to ensure your pet is safe and comfortable during their dental procedure. 

Common dental problems in your pet   

Pets with dental disease have an increased risk of infection in their kidneys, liver, and heart, because the dangerous oral bacteria in tartar can spread through the bloodstream to these organs. Most pets do not develop cavities, but they can be affected by several common dental ailments that can lead to painful diseases. Fortunately, a consistent at-home dental routine, combined with regular veterinary exams and professional dental cleanings, can minimize these problems. Common dental problems include:

  • Plaque and tartar Following a meal, plaque forms a slimy layer on your pet’s teeth that in only a few days hardens into cement-like tartar, trapping the oral bacteria in and around the gumline. Tartar appears as tan or brown deposits on your pet’s teeth. 
  • Gingivitis Plaque or tartar can cause the gums to become inflamed and red. Pets with gingivitis will have swollen gums that are red or purple rather than the normal coral pink. 
  • Periodontal disease This is the most common dental problem in pets, and is a result of progressive, severe dental disease that can affect the gums, ligaments, and bones in your pet’s mouth. This painful condition is more common in small-breed dogs, and can lead to bone and tooth loss without treatment. 
  • Retained baby teeth By the time your pet is 6 months old, they should have all their adult teeth. However, some pets’ baby, or deciduous, teeth do not fall out on their own. These retained teeth can lead to crowding in their mouth and problems with their adult teeth, but are easily removed during an anesthetic dental procedure. 
  • Stomatitis Stomatitis is a painful inflammation of your pet’s oral mucous membranes. The condition is more common in cats, especially those who have been infected with calicivirus.

Our Stone Ridge Veterinary Medical Center team recommends a consistent home dental care routine, in conjunction with regular veterinary visits, to ensure your pet’s teeth remain healthy. If your pet has bad breath or any problems with their teeth or gums, call our office to schedule an oral exam appointment. We want to be your partner in your pet’s dental care.