Your pet’s teeth and gums play an important—but often overlooked—role in their overall health and quality of life. Like humans, pets commonly suffer from dental disease (i.e., periodontal disease), which is a progressive, debilitating condition that leads to inflamed gums, painful tooth decay, and long-term organ damage. Unfortunately, many pet owners don’t use an  at-home dental care routine on their pet, and early disease signs are subtle, so most affected pets go undiagnosed until extensive—and costly—treatment is required.

Carriage Crossing Animal Hospital understands that you want only the best for your pet, but with dental care, you may be uncertain where to start. Let’s look at five simple action steps you can take right now to be your pet’s dental health hero.

#1: Start fresh and schedule a dental consultation for your pet

We recommend that your veterinarian evaluate your pet’s teeth at least once a year, as part of their annual wellness visit. More frequent visits may be recommended for small dogs and brachycephalic breeds (e.g., pugs, French and English bulldogs, Persian cats) that have crowded and misaligned teeth. Before beginning a new home-care routine, a veterinary dental check-up can identify gingivitis, infection, and painful or broken teeth that could accidentally create a negative or fearful association with dental care for your pet. 

#2: Have your pet’s teeth professionally cleaned under anesthesia

Once periodontal disease has established itself below your pet’s gum line, no amount of dental home care can treat or prevent subgingival tooth and bone decay. At that point, a professional dental cleaning under anesthesia is the only effective treatment. 

While you may feel nervous about your pet going under general anesthesia for a dental cleaning, Carriage Crossing Animal Hospital takes extraordinary precautions to ensure your pet’s safety and comfort. Anesthesia allows us to provide comprehensive oral care while your pet relaxes in a fear, stress, and anxiety-free slumber. Once the procedure is completed, your pet will recover in a warm and cozy environment, with no memory of what happened—thereby preserving their trust in the veterinary care team, and helping them heal more quickly. 

In addition to cleaning your pet’s teeth, our dental procedures include:

  • Full mouth dental X-rays — These X-rays help us evaluate periodontal disease below the gum line, as well as tooth root and bone structure. 
  • Scaling and polishing — In addition to tartar removal, every tooth surface is carefully polished, to remove any microscopic grooves created by the cleaning process.
  • Complete oral cavity exam — In addition to charting and probing each tooth, our veterinary team evaluates all your pet’s oral structures, including the gums, tongue, hard and soft palates, and upper airway, for abnormalities.
  • Extractions as needed — Our veterinarian will remove any damaged or broken teeth using delicate techniques and nerve blocks that ensure a pain-free procedure.

#3:  Use daily dental care products that fit your pet

Daily toothbrushing is considered the gold standard for at-home pet care, and for good reason—brushing your pet’s teeth creates friction against the tooth surface and deters plaque and tartar accumulation, while enzymatic pet toothpaste actually breaks down bacteria to prevent buildup and freshen breath. Brushing your pet’s teeth daily also gives you a regular peek at their oral health, meaning you’re more likely to identify early changes, and to then schedule an appointment at Carriage Crossing Animal Hospital before any problems can progress to serious disease. This video can help you teach your pet to accept toothbrushing in a safe and stress-free way.

While nothing compares to daily toothbrushing, we understand that some pets aren’t so keen on the idea. Fortunately, many other safe and effective options are available, including:

  • Dental wipes and gels — Some pets—and their people—find dental wipes and gels easier than brushing.
  • Water additives — Perhaps the simplest option, water additives prevent plaque every time your pet takes a drink.
  • Dental chews and treats — Specially designed dental products made to yield under your pet’s tooth pressure and scrape away plaque as they chew are available.

No matter what product you select, always look for the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of acceptance, to ensure you’re using a product that is proven effective against plaque and tartar. Still need help? Ask us for recommendations.

#4: Feed your pet, not plaque and tartar

If you can’t brush your pet’s teeth after every meal, consider a food that does that for you. Veterinary dental diets (e.g., Hill’s T/D and Purina D/H) are specially formulated to scrub away plaque and tartar as your pet chews. These thoughtfully designed foods are made with large kibble pieces that pets must chew, while the extra-crunchy texture acts abrasively on the tooth’s surface.

These dental diets are only available from veterinarians, so contact us if you’re interested in transitioning your pet to a dental health dog or cat food.

#5: “Chews” the right toys for your pet

Aside from dental disease, inappropriate toys and chewing behavior are the most common reasons for tooth fractures in dogs. Bones, animal parts (e.g., hooves, antlers), and hard plastic toys do not give as your dog chews, putting excessive pressure on their teeth, and often leading to painful slab fractures (i.e., a portion of the large premolar shears off), potentially exposing the sensitive pulp chamber.

Save your dog from reckless chewing and expensive dental damage by providing safe chew toys, such as:

Championing your pet’s dental health begins with a clear action plan and achievable goals. Schedule your pet’s dental consultation at Carriage Crossing Animal Hospital, and take the first heroic step against pet dental disease. Do you have additional questions about pet dental care? Contact us.