Why You Should Clean Your Pet’s Teeth
Pets need routine teeth cleaning just like humans. Regular brushing, dental exams, and annual cleanings are recommended for cats and dogs. Good oral hygiene not only keeps your pet’s teeth clean, but it can be essential in avoiding major periodontal problems as your pet ages.
Brushing your pet’s teeth removes plaque and tartar that builds up after eating. The tiny food particles that remain between teeth and along the gum line harden and form a dark, shell like coating on the teeth. Not only does this cause bad breath, but gum disease and tooth loss can occur if the plaque builds up over time.
Left untreated, this plaque build up can cause infection in the mouth, jawbone, and sinus cavity. Severe infection can infiltrate the bloodstream and cause life-threatening issues like liver and kidney failure, heart disease, and a decrease of appetite that affects the pet’s nutritional intake.
At Home vs. In Office
Your pet will need an annual oral exam and cleaning in your veterinarian’s office, but as a responsible pet owner, you should brush your pet’s teeth daily. There are brushes and toothpastes made specifically for pets.
Clean Your Pet’s Teeth at Home
In order to establish the habit, you should start brushing your pet’s teeth when he is a baby. There are special pet toothbrushes that fit over the end of your finger. A young pup or kitten should be introduced to this device as soon as possible. Not only will it help establish an oral health routine, but it might help painful gums feel better as baby teeth fall out and adult teeth emerge.
Once your pet is familiar with the small, fingertip brush, introduce an actual pet toothbrush. Your pet might fight against this at first but be patient and allow the pet to develop a tolerance for the toothbrush. You might wish to buy a second one that could be used as a chew toy, so your pet is familiar with the feel of the brush. You should also introduce the toothpaste. Pet toothpastes come in flavors like peanut butter, bacon, and fish. Some pets like the taste and some barely tolerate the taste. You might have to experiment to see what works best for your dog or cat.
Brush the teeth, just like you would brush your own. Be sure to move the brush over all the surfaces of the tooth, including the area at the back of the teeth and along the gumline. You don’t have to worry about rinsing the toothpaste out of your pet’s mouth. When they drink, they will rinse their teeth. There are special oral sprays available that you can use if you wish.
Take Your Pet to the Vet for Annual Teeth Cleanings
Your veterinarian will provide dental care for your pet. In addition to annual teeth cleanings, the veterinarian will examine the mouth and teeth for signs of decay or damage. The vet will also look for any lesions or swelling inside the mouth, which could signal an oral disease or autoimmune disease like stomatitis. This exam also lets the vet check for retained baby teeth, double rows of teeth, malformed roots that can cause pain and disease, and soft palette injuries.
Once a year, your pet will need an oral cleaning. During this procedure, the veterinarian will take X-rays of your pet’s teeth and jaws and order bloodwork to determine any liver or kidney problems. Here at Taconic, we are able to perform advanced dental imaging with the use of our CT. After these tests, general anesthesia will be required for your pets cleaning. This allows the veterinarian or their technician to scale and polish the teeth, remove any damaged teeth or retained baby teeth, and scale plaque that has collected under the gum line. These procedures would be impossible if the pet was awake and moving.
Dental Care Helps Prevent Disease
You might think poor dental care will only result in problems with the teeth and gums, but that is not the case. Poor oral health can lead to gingivitis or bone loss in and around the mouth, organ failure, and blood poisoning.
Periodontal disease can cause pets to have recurring infections of the mouth, gums and sinuses. Tooth loss can occur, and pets may stop eating due to pain. Infection along the gumline can grow and invade the bones of the jaw and skull. This can lead to death if untreated.
Internal organ damage can also occur if dental problems are left untreated. Bacteria and infection in the mouth travels to the stomach, liver, and kidneys. As these organs are damaged, the body is unable to properly digest food, absorb vitamins, and eliminate deadly waste material. These conditions can be fatal.
Infection and excessive white blood cells due to the infection overload the bloodstream. As red blood cells are killed off, autoimmune diseases, heart attacks, and cancer can occur. Just brushing the teeth is not adequate to remove any pockets of infection from the mouth. Deep oral cleaning and scaling are required to drain pus from infected areas, remove the damage-causing debris and plaque, and apply protective coatings and sealants.
During the teeth cleaning, your veterinarian may recommend tooth removal, or extraction. This can be because the tooth’s surface is broken or damaged. They may also recommend it, because the tooth is too loose and increases the risk of causing infection. Sometimes the extraction is due to a remaining baby tooth or a misalignment that could cause feeding issues.
Oral care for your pet is just as important as food and water. Without dental care, your pet can become very ill. Death is even possible with severe oral disease. You should begin cleaning your pet’s teeth as early as you can with an at-home pet toothbrush and pet toothpaste. During the annual checkup and vaccine appointment, ask your vet to do an oral exam. Schedule oral surgery or a teeth cleaning if your vet recommends it.