Whilst August is Dental month, we encourage dental care all year round.
The aim of dental care is to minimise the build-up of plaque on the teeth, and prevent mineralisation (hardening) of plaque to form calculus (otherwise know as 'tartar').
Tips to promote good dental health at home:
- Tooth-brushing: If your pet will allow it, tooth brushing is the single most effective way of controlling plaque. Toothbrushes need to have soft bristles – you can use a very soft human toothbrush, but many people find pet toothbrushes easier.
With toothpaste, it is important to use one designed for animals, as human toothpaste is not designed to be swallowed (and dogs are not good at rinsing and spitting), and they often come flavoured which can help make brushing a treat.
Please note that once plaque hardens to calculus, it cannot be removed by brushing alone, and the presence of any existing disease may make the experience painful, so having this professionally removed first will make any home care you perform much more effective.
- Chewing: Chewing has an abrasive action that helps remove plaque – however it is important to offer something that is safe (not too small, hard or brittle) yet still effective.
Bones are very popular in Australia and have the added benefit of providing enjoyment and boredom relief. However, they should be used with caution as there are some potential complications such as broken teeth, choking, or gastrointestinal obstruction and trauma.
Please note: it is never safe to give your animal a cooked bone!
Please consult with your Veterinarian as to what type of bone is appropriate for your pet.
Other chewy options include specially designed dental chew treats (which may also be impregnated with chemicals that retard plaque growth), rawhides, pigs' ears, and chew toys (such as rubber Kong toys).
- Dental diets: Some pet food companies have now released both canine and feline 'dental diets' which have been scientifically proven to help reduce plaque and/or tartar buildup. These may work by physically cleaning the teeth (they do not fall apart easily when chewed) or by the addition of chemicals that prevent the hardening of plaque to form tartar.
Here at Cooks hill Veterinary Clinic we recommend Hills Prescription t/d Dental diet and Royal Canin Dental diet for cats and dogs.
Choice of diet may be affected by other health issues, so it is important to get professional advice on which diets are most suitable for your pet.
- Dental antiseptics: Antiseptics kill plaque bacteria, and are most effective when combined with a method that physically disrupts the plaque layer to allow them to penetrate properly (this is why dentists don't recommend we use mouthwash alone as a substitute for brushing our teeth!).
They are available in several forms, including rinses, gels, pastes and water additives. An example of this is Healthymouth, which is a flavoured additive to water.
Cats in particular may find some of these 'offensive' to their sensitive palates, so ask your local veterinary hospital for advice on which product is best suited to your pet.
These images show the teeth of a 9year old Maltese Cross named Molly who received a Dental Scale and Polish at our clinic yesterday.
In the images you can see that she started with a grade 3/4 of dental disease, with quick a big build-up of tartar and some gingivitis (redness of the gums). Luckily we were able to get the tartar off, and after a scale and polish the teeth are looking beautiful.
Note: Molly's mum has given us permission to post these photos.