February is National Pet Dental Health month. Having a healthy mouth is important all year round but we like to take this opportunity once a year to talk about all things dental for our pets. There are many reasons why paying attention to our pet’s mouth can lead to a healthier pet and even less overall expense for pet owners. So, have you looked in your pet’s mouth lately? 

Why Care About Your Pet’s Mouth?

Here are just a few reasons to have your dog and cat’s mouth checked out by your veterinarian at least once a year: 

  1. Heavy tartar build up is a great place for bacteria to hang out. This bacteria can spread out to other parts of the body and stress organ function (especially the heart and we all know how important that organ is!). 
  2. Poor oral health can lead to root infection and tooth loss. 
  3. Broken and loose teeth can be painful! 
  4. A painful, infected mouth can lead to loss of appetite and poor nutrition. 
  5. Let’s not forget that a mouth with heavy tartar or rotten teeth will smell bad and be a source of some very bad breath. 

Things You Can Do At Home for Dental Health

Lifestyle and genetics all play a role in oral health and how often a pet will need a professional dental cleaning. There are some dental products out there such as enzymatic toothpaste (NEVER USE TOOTHPASTE WITH FLUORIDE!!!) and additives to food or water to reduce oral bacteria and tartar, promoting a healthier mouth between cleanings. Diets such as Hills T/D are formulated to allow less tartar build up through a bit of crunching action. This specialized food is designed to rub off light tartar while the pet is chewing. Occasionally,  pets will allow you to chip off heavy chunks of tartar that is easily visible when they are awake. This will take some stress off the gum line and reduce the immediate bacteria load but it is not as good as a professional dental cleaning. 

The Professional Veterinary Cleaning: Dental Gold

To truly get a pet’s teeth clean of tartar and polished so that the tartar comes back more slowly, a professional dental cleaning under anesthesia is required. It is impossible to really get in there and assess all areas of a pet’s mouth if they are awake. During a dental procedure, a veterinarian will probe the gum line looking for pockets of  hidden infection and assess tooth health above and below the gum line. Our doctors often times will take dental radiographs to look at the roots of teeth and search for hidden sources of infection or pain. Loose teeth and those with root disease will need to be extracted. Tartar is removed using an ultrasonic scaler which leaves less damaging grooves in the teeth compared to using a tool to chip it off. Finally, the now clean teeth are polished up to make a smooth surface that is harder for tartar to stick to. If you really want to go the extra mile, we also have an awesome tooth sealant called Sanos that can prevent tartar build up even more and potentially extend the time between dentals. If you happen to have a pet (dog or cat) that seems to build up tartar quickly, Sanos can be a game changer for you. 

There are a few circumstances where a professional dental cleaning (under anesthesia) would not be the best choice for your pet. These circumstances include certain organ disease and medical issues that would make anesthesia too risky. In these cases, we fall back on managing oral health through home care such as tooth brushing and other individual solutions as recommended by your veterinarian. 

Have You Looked In Your Pet’s Mouth Lately?

If your cat’s pearly white teeth are more of a brown mess, your pet may need a dental cleaning. If you can smell your dog’s breath from across the room, your pet may need a dental cleaning. Not sure? Schedule an exam with your veterinarian and they can evaluate and discuss the best options for your family.