February is dental awareness month!  When you think of maintaining your pet’s health, you probably think of routine vaccinations and parasite prevention.  However, dental problems can pose a serious risk.  Dental issues include periodontal disease, internal problems from oral bacteria, pain, swelling, problems chewing, loss of appetite, and abscesses.  Plaque builds up on your pet’s teeth which can then harden into tartar.  It is important to try to keep tartar-buildup off of your pet’s teeth.

What is periodontal disease?

Preventing periodontal disease is key.  This is a serious infection of the gums, normally caused by Streptococcus and Actinomyces bacteria, that affects the bone and soft tissues surrounding teeth.  This means that the actual bone that supports your pet’s teeth can deteriorate, which can cause a slew of different problems.  Periodontal disease starts underneath your pet’s gums, meaning that sometimes it isn’t caught until the disease has progressed to a serious level.  Check the chart below to see the stages of the progressive disease, and make sure to bring your pet in if necessary.

In stage one, you may notice red, puffy gums or bad breath.  In stage two, the gums may begin to recede.  During stage one and stage two, we recommend that you bring your pet in for a dental cleaning.  In stage three, gums will have receded moderately and there may be loose teeth.  At this stage, x-rays may be used to determine if tooth extraction is necessary.  In stage four, tooth roots may be exposed, teeth may be missing, and pockets of pus might surround teeth.  Tooth extraction is most likely necessary at this stage.

In-Clinic Treatments

It is recommended that your dog get a routine dental cleaning once a year.  In this procedure, a scaler is used to remove plaque and tartar.  We can also examine your pet’s teeth for any other dental problems during this time.  Additionally, we offer fluoride treatments.  Fluoride is a chemical that prevents cavities and makes teeth stronger and decay-resistant.

Brushing at Home

It’s recommended that you brush your pet’s teeth 2 to 7 times per week.  You can warm your pet up to the idea of teeth brushing with short, positive sessions.  Employing the help of a little bit of beef bouillon, use your finger to massage the teeth and gums with circular motions for a few weeks. Once they’re comfortable with that, move on to a toothbrush!  Hold it at a 45-degree-angle and brush teeth thoroughly using circular motions.  End with brushing vertically moving toward the inside of the mouth, which will remove any remaining plaque loosened. Make sure you use a toothbrush and toothpaste specially designed for pets as they are designed and formulated differently.

Products that Help

We carry some helpful products here in the clinic.  We have enzymatic toothpaste, C.E.T. Hextra chews, and Veggiedent chews. The enzymes help dissolve tartar, while the mechanical action of chewing the Hextras and veggiedents helps break up and remove that tartar.  Both regular brushing and dental chews can contribute to a healthy at-home regimen

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