Animal Health Care of Marlboro and You: A Partnership for Your Pet’s Life-Long Dental Health
Periodontal disease is the most common health problem to affect pets, and without an intentional dental health care program, most pets develop some degree of periodontal disease by 3 years of age. Without early intervention, mild disease will progress to severe periodontal disease that can cause tooth-root infections, abscesses, tooth loss, and significant pain. Many pet owners think that ugly teeth and doggy breath are normal, but that is entirely untrue. Far from a cosmetic problem, periodontal disease can have far-reaching consequences, and oral bacteria can affect your pet’s heart, kidneys, and other organs.
Preventive dental care should be part of every pet’s basic health-care routine, along with routine wellness exams, vaccines, and parasite prevention. A successful dental health-care regimen for your pet requires your partnership with our veterinary team. Together, we can ensure your pet maintains optimal dental health, which will contribute greatly to her overall health.
Our Part 1: Professional Dental Evaluations
We assess your pet’s dental health during every wellness exam, but problems sometimes arise between annual appointments. Schedule an extra visit if you notice signs of periodontal disease, such as:
- Tartar build-up
- Bad breath
- Broken, cracked, or missing teeth
- Red, swollen, or bleeding gums
- Decreased appetite
- Dropping food while eating
- Reluctance to her face or mouth being touched
Our Part 2: Professional Dental Cleanings for Your Pet
If we see disease evidence during a dental assessment, we will recommend dental X-rays and a professional veterinary dental cleaning under anesthesia.
Since more than half of each tooth is buried under the gumline, we can see dental disease’s full extent only by evaluating X-rays, which show the tooth crown, root, and surrounding bone. Teeth often look completely normal above the gumline, but the underlying roots are affected by significant disease or infection. If extractions are necessary, X-rays allow us to plan our approach and ensure the surrounding bone is healthy, to minimize fracture risk during the procedure.
All pets need regular dental cleanings—one a year is sufficient for most pets, but some require more frequent care to maintain healthy teeth. During a dental cleaning, we clean your pet’s teeth similarly to your dentist. We perform a thorough step-by-step cleaning that removes tartar above and below the gumline, polishes away microscopic crevices on the tooth surface, and leaves your pet’s teeth sparkling white. If any of your pet’s teeth have deteriorated to the point that they cannot be saved, we will recommend extraction to relieve discomfort and pain.
Your Part: At-Home Dental Care for Your Pet
Regular dental cleanings are critical, but at-home dental care is equally important. Imagine never brushing your teeth, and only visiting the dentist once a year for a cleaning—this clearly is not adequate dental care for you, or your pet. Unfortunately, few pet owners brush their pet’s teeth, relying on periodic professional cleanings only to keep their pet’s mouth healthy.
Daily Toothbrushing for Your Pet
Daily toothbrushing forms the basis of at-home dental care. If you have never tried brushing your pet’s teeth, or you have tried but your pet would not cooperate, now is the time to start. Getting your pet used to toothbrushing may take patience and perseverance, but most pets learn to enjoy the daily attention. Start by simply touching your pet’s mouth or lifting her lip and rewarding her with a treat. Let her lick a dab of pet-friendly flavored toothpaste from your finger, and slowly progress to rubbing the outside of her teeth. Finally, rub her teeth with a finger toothbrush instead of your bare finger to remove plaque and bacteria. Some pets will accept toothbrushing more than others—let your pet set the pace, and reward her with plenty of treats so she forms a positive association.
Plaque-Slowing Dental Products for Your Pet
If your pet refuses toothbrushing or tries to bite, you can use dental products to slow plaque and tartar formation. Although these products will not replace toothbrushing, they can help prevent periodontal disease.
Look for dog and cat products labeled with the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of approval, as this designation is awarded only to products proven to slow plaque and tartar formation. We stock a variety of dental treats, rinses, water additives, gels, wipes, and sprays that can help you provide comprehensive at-home dental care for your pet—ask one of our team members to help you choose the best products.
Ideally, you should begin a dental health-care regimen by 6 months of age, when your pet’s adult teeth start erupting. But, if your adult pet has never seen a toothbrush or had a dental cleaning, it is never too late to start. We would love to help you get caught up and reverse dental disease to improve your pet’s dental—and overall—health. Call us to schedule a dental evaluation for your pet.