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Cats and Dogs, Critter Chatter, Healthcare

CRITTER CHATTER: Dental Care For Your Pet

The Paw Print

Essential Pet Blog

Dark coated terrier dog looking at camera

“Don’t be scared
I’ve done this before
Show me your teeth.”

Lady Gaga, Teeth

February is National Pet Dental Health Month. The number one disease in dogs is periodontal disease. Untreated it can destroy structures and even lead to fractures of the jaw. The inside of your dog’s mouth should be examined on a regular basis and the best way to do this by brushing his teeth. Sadly brushing your pets’ teeth and taking a whiff of his breath are not the most pleasant tasks to perform, but are very important in maintaining overall health and quality of life, especially as your dog ages.


Daily brushing helps remove plaque before it turns into tartar that must be removed by a veterinary dentist, a procedure that usually involves general anesthesia. Brushing is best begun at an early age, but even if your adult dog has never had his teeth brushed before, start now. Most pet and online stores sell soft, child-size brushes for dogs, or you can use a gauze sponge or finger brush. Use only toothpastes specifically formulated for pets because human products often contain fluoride that is poisonous to dogs and abrasives or foaming detergents that may induce vomiting if swallowed.

Mouth Rinse

Mouth rinse solutions added to your pet’s drinking water help reduce oral bacteria to encourage healthy teeth and gums by slowing plaque buildup. Chlorhexidine is a very effective antiseptic and available as a gel, liquid, wipe or water additive.

Foods, toys, and treats

Dry pet foods chew toys and treats help strengthen jaw muscles and bones and help reduce accumulation of plaque and tartar. Of course, all chew toys should be sized to your pet and used under your supervision.

Dogs have 42 teeth and in spite of your best intentions in maintaining a healthy mouth, may require dentistry. Fortunately, there have been many developments in canine dentistry:

  • Advances in anesthesia together with better drugs for pain management allow for lower doses for induction and maintenance during the procedure.
  • Most cases of over/underbites were corrected in the past by extracting teeth. A novel approach today is the use of specially designed screws that serve as an anchor between the fastener and the tooth that needs moving.
  • Bonding materials are better, stronger and safer and create less inflammatory tissue response.
  • There are now crowns that match tooth color, although in most cases metal prosthetics provide better durability.
  • Improved high- and low-speed drills allow veterinarians to perform most any procedure currently available for humans. A new handheld extraction instrument works like a jackhammer, making extractions easier and faster.
  • Bone grafting materials have reduced the need to take bone from another part of the body and transplant it into the dog’s mouth to encourage bone growth.

Regular brushing, antiseptic topical treatments, hard kibble foods and appropriate chew toys and treats combined with regular visits to a veterinarian go a long way in maintaining healthy gums and teeth and eliminating doggie breath. And maybe your dog will be happy to show off his teeth…in a nice way, of course.


a vet and his dogABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Brown holds a Doctorate Degree in Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from the University of California at Davis, a Master of Science Degree in Animal Science and Bachelor of Science Degree in Animal Physiology from the University of California.  Following discharge from the Air Force as a Captain, he owned and operated the largest veterinary hospital on Cape Cod for almost twenty years. Brown is the past President of the Yavapai Humane Society Board of Directors, Branding Committee Chairman for National Animal Supplement Council and member of the American Veterinary Medical Association.  He writes and lectures frequently on the benefits of natural and organic foods and supplements for animals and lives with his wife and a Golden doodle named Charlotte.

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