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Dental Care and Your Pet

At home:

All teeth require cleaning.  Our genetics partially determine how our teeth age and decay, the pH of our mouth, and whether our teeth are crowded or straight.  Small dog’s teeth frequently age poorly at least partially due to having small mouths with relatively larger teeth crowded into them.  Large dogs tend to have a longer time before severe decay begins to rot teeth and cause gum disease, but also require dental care.  The best thing to do for your pet’s oral health is to start brushing her teeth daily with a soft toothbrush and a dog-specific toothpaste (pets don’t know to spit out the fluoride-containing paste).  If your pet has never had their teeth brushed, do not fear - it can be enjoyable for both of you!  First and foremost, this is attention, which most dogs will eat up.  Further, the paste is usually flavored for canine and feline enjoyment.  Settle into a regular habit of brushing teeth with plenty of rubbing and praise mixed in!  

At the clinic:

For those whose pets have not gotten dental care at home until now, you may need a dental prophylaxis (cleaning) procedure.  This is a general anesthetic procedure in which the teeth are scaled ultrasonically, the gums are tested for pockets of decay or infection, and the teeth are polished.  This is the only way to remove calculus which has accumulated on the teeth. Calculus is the cement-like substance which is formed when plaque is left on the teeth for more than 24 hours.  Any teeth which are rotten, fractured, or otherwise can’t be saved will be removed during the dental and the wounds closed if it is warranted.  If your pet’s teeth are very inflamed and infected, an antibiotic may be prescribed in advance of the dental cleaning to prevent the blood spread of mouth bacteria.

After the dental prophylaxis procedure, starting (or re-starting) your home dental routine is vital to ensure teeth remain healthy.  Signs your pet may need attention for her teeth include increased drooling, dropping food, decreased eating, and foul smell odor from the mouth.  Call or come in to your veterinarian if you have any concerns about your pet’s teeth.