Dental health is critical for our pets’ overall well-being, but far too often, it’s the owner’s last focus. Dogs and cats can suffer from dental issues that impact their quality of life and sometimes their longevity. Our team at MountainView Veterinary Hospital explores the importance of pet dental care and provides practical tips for maintaining those beautiful smiles. 

Dental health is paramount to overall health

Excellent dental health is an indicator of general wellness, which is easily understood by the way you attend to your own oral hygiene. Keeping your teeth and gums healthy is necessary not only to prevent disease in the oral cavity but also to ensure major body organs are not damaged. Dental disease is intrinsically linked to poor health in humans and pets.

Without regular dental examinations and toothbrushing, your pet will suffer from tooth loss and decay, gum disease (i.e., gingivitis), pain, infection, and damage to the heart, liver, and kidneys. Obviously, dental care is crucial. Yet dental, or periodontal, disease is one of the most common diseases in dogs and cats. The condition results when bacteria in the teeth accumulate and develop into plaque that hardens to tartar and causes bacterial inflammation and infection and damages the teeth’s supportive structures.

The case for regular dental checkups

Pets require at least annual dental exams, so that your veterinarian can keep track of their baseline oral health and be alerted to any changes. These exams are also the perfect opportunity for you to ask questions. 

After the exam, your veterinarian may recommend a dental cleaning that requires anesthesia, which concerns some pet owners, who often wonder about its necessity. The reason is safety—for the pet and the veterinary staff—and efficacy. Dental cleanings involve several steps, including probing the gums and teeth and scaling and polishing, and require some sharp instruments to remove plaque and tartar. Without anesthesia, pets would be stressed and fearful and could be injured. We also need to take a series of digital X-rays to see more details and your pet needs to stay completely still, which would be impossible without sedation.

Dental examinations are a great opportunity for our team to offer you at-home tips for pet dental care.

At-home dental care for your four-legged friend

Many pet owners ask what they can do at home to keep their pets’ pearly whites clean. Your pet needs at-home care to supplement the veterinary care and we recommend the following oral hygiene routine:

  • Brush your dog or cat’s teeth daily — If you haven’t yet tried to brush your pet’s teeth, it’s never too late to start, although beginning toothbrushing your pet as a puppy or kitten is best. Use a toothbrush appropriate for your pet’s size and pet-safe toothpaste—never use human toothpaste, which is toxic to pets. Start slowly, focusing your attention on the front incisors, to acclimate your pet to the feel of the toothbrush, and then moving to the sides and insides of the teeth and gums. Reward your pet with small treats during and after the process to instill positive feelings about toothbrushing.
  • Use dental treats and chews — What pet doesn’t love treats? Use dental chews, which come in a variety of sizes and flavors, and help keep the teeth plaque-free. Chewing acts as a form of toothbrushing, so dental treats are a good addition to their dental routine. Many specially designed, good-quality dental chew toys are available, but look for products with the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal on the packaging, which denotes that the council’s board-certified veterinary dentists have certified its efficacy.
  • Supplement water and food with dental additives — Include dental additives, which contain pet-safe cleaners that reduce plaque and tartar and promote healthy mouth bacteria, with your pet’s food and water. You must use additives consistently to get the best results.
  • Monitor changes in behavior — Last but not least, watch for changes in your pet’s behavior, particularly signs that indicate difficulty eating or pain, such as:
    • Eating on one side of the mouth
    • Dropping food when eating
    • Blood on their gums or in their food
    • Excessive drooling

Consult us promptly if you notice any problems, because dental disease progression to the serious stages can be prevented only with early intervention.

We hope pet owners will be proactive about their pet’s dental health by prioritizing regular veterinary checkups, at-home dental care, and appropriate dietary choices. Remember, a little effort in dental care will go a long way in enhancing your beloved pet’s quality of life.

Give us a call at MountainView Veterinary Hospital to schedule your pet’s dental exam and time for us to answer your questions. We provide care to pets in Rockaway and Denville.