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Dental disease happens gradually over time, as plaque, an adhesive layer of bacteria, forms on the surface of the tooth after every meal. As more plaque settles it hardens to form calculus, creating the ideal environment for bacterial growth. As the condition accelerates, the gums detach from the tooth, creating pockets of bacterial growth which eventually damage the tissues, expose roots, and cause abscesses. This can eventually lead to the teeth becoming decayed and falling out.
Did you know that one of the most common diseases we see in practice is dental disease? Over 80% of cats and dogs suffer from some level of dental disease and this occurs in animals as young as 3 years old.
The common clinical signs of dental disease are:
So… to enjoy fresh breath, squeaky clean teeth, healthy gums and happy canines and felines make sure you scrub those gnashers and get them checked annually!
If tartar is already established, the first step is to get your pet booked in for a dental scale and polish! This involves the use of an electric scaler that vibrates at a very high speed in combination with jet of water to detach and wash away hard, well-established calculus. Following a dental, it is important to start a dental hygiene protocol straight away, as plaque will start to form again following the first meal.
We recommend a scale & polish treatment at least once a year for all dogs aged 3 and over.
Please note that a pre-dental check is performed on every pet interested in a dental, so if your pet requires more than a simple scale & polish our vets will always advise of this.
Brushing really is the best method of reducing dental disease!
You can begin introducing animal friendly toothpaste from 12 weeks of age and we advise beginning to use an appropriate toothbrush from when your dog is a puppy.
But please note! Human toothpaste should not be given to pets – the substances used to flavour them is toxic to animals and can may them very sick!
Begin by introducing your pet to the toothpaste, offering it as a treat on the end of your finger or dabbing some on their paws for them to lick off if they are a bit fussy. Once your pet is happy with this, then gently lift your pet’s lip and carefully rub a small amount of paste over the gums and teeth. This begins the process of getting your pet used to the sensation, while using the paste as positive re-enforcement. Do this for a minimum of two to three weeks.
The next step is to introduce your pet to bristles. Most toothpastes come with a finger brush that goes over the top of the finger. This has very short, soft bristles which do not do very much in terms of cleaning but introduce the slightly more invasive aspect of tooth brushing. This will allow you to get into the nooks and crannies, whilst starting to build up the coarseness of regular brushes. This is done gradually over three to four weeks, starting with very short time periods that gradually increase in duration.
Finally, we move onto the normal toothbrush, again starting with a small amount of paste for a short period, gradually increasing the duration.
Remember with each step to give lots of praise, cuddles and maybe a treat or two
If your pet does not like having their teeth brushed, then there are still other options available to you…
There are a number of dental diets available, which are specifically designed to help with dental tartar. They are generally larger and filled with an airy fibrous texture which breaks up easily so that the edges scrub the surfaces of the teeth as the animals chew, taking tartar with it. Dental chews work much in the same manner. The drawback is that to be fully effective, these diets should not be mixed with others and all teeth must chew to be affected; so not all teeth will be cleaned.
Some products can be added to your pet’s water to help prevent dental disease. Aquadent contains ingredients that stop calcium forming on the tooth surface, while preventing formation of plaque and tartar. Other water additives come in powder form and soften plaque so that it falls away when your pet chews their food.