You open our hospital’s door, and rush to the front desk, eager to pick up your elderly Yorkshire terrier after her dental cleaning. Worried because your beloved companion needed multiple teeth pulled, since many were too diseased to save, you want to see how she is doing after her oral procedure. When our team brings out your pet, you are pleased to see that she appears comfortable and pain-free but, despite excellent pain-control protocols, you never want to put your best friend through this again. So, now your pet has a clean slate, let’s develop a plan for her continued dental health. 

Aren’t regular dental cleanings enough for my pet’s dental health?

While pets require regular dental deep cleanings to remove the accumulated plaque and tartar beneath the gumline, that does not mean that a routine cleaning works like a vaccination, protecting your pet from dental disease for the next year. Professional dental cleanings become necessary when plaque and tartar cannot be kept at bay through at-home methods. In a perfect world, your pet would maintain a healthy mouth solely through at-home dental care, but that is rarely the case. Genetic predisposition, oral anatomy, and your pet’s chewing habits can lead to periodontal disease that you are unable to thwart at home. 

Dental cleanings are recommended based on your pet’s propensity to accumulate tartar—some pets require biannual cleanings, while others may only need a cleaning every few years. To help prolong the time between cleanings, and to monitor your pet’s oral health, an at-home dental-care regimen is vital. Imagine going 365 days or more without brushing your teeth, and instead relying on your dentist to clean your mouth once per year—this is why dentists are strong advocates for twice-daily brushing and flossing. While flossing is difficult to perform on your pet’s teeth, you can brush her teeth—and the more often, the better.   

What are the best ways to keep my pet’s teeth healthy at home?

The gold standard for keeping your pet’s teeth healthy—and yours—is through regular brushing but, unfortunately, this is not possible with every pet. Some pets simply will not tolerate a toothbrush in their mouth, and may snap or bite in warning. However, some pets who refuse a toothbrush may tolerate an oral wipe, or a damp paper towel wiped across their teeth after meals, which will help reduce plaque. 

Whether or not your pet allows toothbrushing, a variety of other methods and products are available that will grant your furry pal fresh breath, fewer oral bacteria, and reduced plaque and tartar accumulation. Include the following dental-health products in your care plan at home:

  • Pet-friendly toothpaste and toothbrush
  • Dental wipes
  • Oral rinses
  • Water additives
  • Dental chews 
  • Dental treats
  • Food additives
  • Prescription dental diets

Treat each pet as an individual. What works for one may not work for another, and you may be forced to try multiple treats, chews, or additives to discover what your pet enjoys the most. Keep in mind that twice-daily toothbrushing is the best way to stay on top of your furry pal’s dental health, as it is for you. 

How do I choose dental-health products for my pet?

When trying to choose dental-health products for your pet, you likely will be overwhelmed by all the products on the pet-store shelves, each claiming to be most recommended by veterinarians. Since not every product can be veterinarians’ top choice, how do you decide? It’s actually not difficult—ignore all the flashy marketing gimmicks and look only for the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of approval. 

The VOHC, while not a regulatory agency, recognizes dental-health products that meet their criteria for slowing plaque and tartar accumulation. Dental-product testing is entirely voluntary, but manufacturers who choose to test their products and send the results to the VOHC can be awarded a seal of approval that designates their product as effective in battling periodontal disease. Always look for the VOHC seal, because regular use of products that bear the seal will reduce periodontal disease severity in your pet between recommended professional cleanings by your veterinarian.

Are you interested in teaching your pet to accept toothbrushing? Contact our office for tips and tricks to help tackle this task.