Dental Care at Home
A dental examination and prophylaxis (cleaning) are an important step in maintaining or improving your pet's oral health. Dental care at home is also important and will help keep your pet's mouth as healthy as possible. It can maximize the time between dental cleanings (keeping anesthesia and hospital stays to a minimum) and prevent problems before they even start. It can also help keep the breath fresher! Here are some ways to take care of your pet's dental health at home.
- This is the most effective method of dental care at home. It is easiest to begin when the animal is young, but even older animals can be taught to tolerate tooth brushing.
- Any soft toothbrush can be used, although special pet ones are made with smaller, angled heads to make things easier.
- Just brushing with water is very effective. Flavored toothpastes (such as chicken) are available to make the experience more enjoyable for your pet. Do NOT use human toothpastes or rinses.
- Brushing once a day is best. Even if you can commit to brushing your pet's teeth every other day, it will help.
- You only need to brush the outside surfaces of the teeth, using a circular motion.
- Start by just introducing your pet to the taste of the toothpaste, if you are using one. Work up to using toothpaste on your finger or a washcloth and then toothpaste on the toothbrush. Spend a week at each stage before moving on. Keep the sessions short at the beginning and gradually lengthen them to 30 seconds in each quarter of the mouth (2 minutes total).
Oral Rinses and Gels
- If your pet will not tolerate tooth brushing, oral rinses and gels are an alternative.
- There are multiple types available, but they usually come as a spray or squeeze bottle. Generally, a small amount is applied to both sides of the mouth, and it spreads inside of the mouth to reach all of the teeth.
- Water additives come as a liquid that is mixed into your pet's drinking water.
- It needs to be dumped out and replaced daily and should be used continuously for best results.
- Multiple "dental" diets are currently available. The one that we recommend is Hill's Science Diet T/D.
- The food helps prevent tartar build-up by its abrasive action on the teeth.
Special Chew Treats
- Many "dental" chews are available.
- These have some benefit in helping prevent tartar build-up through abrasive action, however their effect is limited to the part of the mouth that the pet uses when chewing on the treat.
- Special care needs to be taken with these treats. There have been some reports of GI problems, especially if the treat is eaten instead of chewed.