February is National Pet Dental Health month so why not take an active role in your pet’s teeth?
By Maria Libonate, RVT
Many veterinary hospitals across the country are promoting dental health this month by offering a discount on teeth cleaning or dental products, as well as providing information and tips on teeth brushing and even giving away sample kits, including toothbrushes and dental treats. Check with your veterinarian to see what they are offering.
At home there are many things you can do to help keep your pet’s teeth healthy like; brushing their teeth, offering them healthy dental treats and chews, feeding them a special dental diet, and even adding a water additive.
So why is it so important to keep your pet’s teeth clean and healthy? Dental disease can lead to other issues, such as infections. These infections, if left untreated for long enough, can enter the bloodstream and affect the internal organs, such as the kidneys and liver. This is why it’s so important to keep your pet’s smile healthy and clean.
Your veterinarian will recommend brushing the teeth daily, and a technician can show you how to brush properly. We know that not all animals are cooperative, though, so brushing may not be an option for your pet.
The next best thing would be to offer dental treats or chews that have added enzymes to help clean teeth, as well as allowing the pet to use the chewing action as a way to “brush” their teeth. This is also something that can be done with special dental diets that you can either feed as meals or offer as treats.
The last option if your pet is not a chewer or food motivated, is to use a water additive that may help to fight bacteria in your animal’s mouth. This last option is not the best, but it’s better than nothing!
Professional dental cleanings are also an excellent way to keep your pet’s teeth healthy. These are done under anesthesia so that the doctor or technician doing the cleaning can get under the gum line and perform a deep cleaning with scaling, polishing, and a fluoride treatment. Dental x-rays are also taken while the pet is under completing a full assessment of the pet’s teeth.
Teeth are like icebergs, where a large portion of the tooth (the roots) lie hidden beneath the surface. This is why x-rays are so necessary, because a tooth may look normal on the outside, but maybe hiding signs of disease under the gum line and this can only be seen with x-rays. Due to this fact, most veterinarians will not recommend anesthetic-free dental cleanings as they do not provide a thorough enough clean. With a pet awake and alert, it can be close to impossible to get under the gum line to clean and obviously not possible to do dental x-rays. The teeth may look clean afterward, but there could be underlying disease that may eventually lead to a serious infection.
If you notice a bad odor from your pet’s mouth or any swelling of the face, or if they seem to be having trouble chewing or eating, it may be time to have their mouth examined. The next time you visit your veterinarian, have them check your pet’s teeth and ask for a tooth brushing demonstration. The doctor will be able to tell you as well as show you if any of the teeth look diseased, if there is any gingivitis, and if your pet is in need of a dental cleaning.
Keeping your pet’s teeth healthy and clean will allow them to live a happy and healthy life overall. There’s nothing better than a nice clean smile!
Maria Libonate is a Registered Veterinary Technician. She works at the VCA Venice Boulevard Animal Hospital at 12108 Venice Boulevard Mar Vista. Ph: 310.313.9118. There is also a VCA clinic at 2506 Lincoln Blvd., Venice. Ph: 310.306.8707.