Nothing beats the sparkling clean mouth your pet has when he is fresh from a dental cleaning. If only his mouth would stay minty fresh! Although there is no way to completely avoid the plaque and bad breath that will eventually develop, there are a number of ways you can keep your pet’s teeth looking good and staying healthy until his next cleaning.
The goal of dental care at home is to prevent the formation of tartar on your pet’s teeth. Dental disease starts with the buildup of a sticky film called plaque on the tooth surface. If not removed within 24–72 hours, minerals in the saliva harden plaque into tartar, or calculus. Once tartar has formed, the only way to remove it is with specialized tools used by your veterinarian during a dental cleaning.
Brush your pet’s teeth regularly
The most effective way to remove plaque from the tooth surface is by scrubbing it away with regular brushing. This may seem like a far-fetched idea, but most pets can be taught to accept having their teeth brushed. Try these tips:
- Begin by gathering the supplies you will need:
- A soft-bristled pet toothbrush or finger brush
- Flavored pet-specific toothpaste (not human toothpaste, which can cause stomach upset if swallowed)
- During the first few sessions, simply put some of the toothpaste on your finger and allow your pet to lick it off.
- Progress to rubbing your finger over your pet’s teeth as he licks the toothpaste off.
- After your pet is comfortable with you moving your hand around his mouth, try introducing the toothbrush. Put toothpaste on the toothbrush or finger brush, and gently rub it over the surface of the teeth.
- Gradually work toward being able to brush each tooth in the mouth. Be patient as your pet becomes accustomed to longer periods of brushing.
- Reward your pet after each brushing session, even if it does not go well at first. You want your pet to form a positive association with teeth brushing and look forward to it.
- Brush your pet’s teeth every day.
Feed VOHC-approved food and treats
The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) recognizes products that slow the formation of plaque and tartar on the teeth of dogs and cats. Although many products may make this claim, only those with the VOHC seal have been proven to actually inhibit dental disease. A variety of food brands and treats are available for dogs and cats—when shopping for your pet, choose products from this list to help keep plaque and tartar at bay.
Choose hard food
Although canned food may seem like a tastier option for your pet, its gummy texture can cause it to stick in the crevices between teeth. Hard food is a better option—as your pet chews on the pieces of kibble, they scrape against the tooth surface and help remove plaque. Size also matters—larger chunks of food are actually better. Using the teeth to break large chunks down into smaller pieces increases the plaque-removing benefit.
Use plaque-reducing water additives
Also on the VOHC-approved list are a number of water additives that have been shown to reduce plaque formation by as much as 75 percent in dogs and 85 percent in cats. These products are simply added to your pet’s drinking water—as he hydrates, the additive reduces plaque formation in the mouth. The result is fresher breath, less plaque and tartar, and possibly fewer professional dental cleanings.
Provide chew toys that wear plaque away
If your pet is like most, he has a basket full of chew toys at his disposal. Did you know that by choosing the right toys, you can help keep his mouth cleaner? Try these options:
- Rubber chew toys that have ridges and bumps will rub against the teeth as your pet chews on them, removing plaque before it turns into tartar.
- Rope toys will work against the tooth surface and between the teeth while your pup gnaws on them.
- Hollow rubber toys can be filled with pieces of hard food or treats—as your pet works to get the prize out, friction against the teeth will help remove plaque.
Stay away from hard chew toys, such as animal bones, horse hooves, and antlers. Although pets love to chew on these natural treats, they can cause broken teeth and oral trauma.
A complete home oral health care plan could easily include all of these components for maximum benefit to your pet. Keep in mind that even though you brush and floss every day, you still need to see your dentist every six months for a cleaning. Your pet’s teeth are no different—regular dental cleanings are still a necessity.
Question about keeping your pet’s teeth clean and healthy? Call us today!