Preventative Home Dental Care
Within 24 hours after a dental cleaning, plaque (a bacterial film layer) begins to accumulate on the surface of teeth, and gum disease can return within two weeks. The best way to prevent plaque from building and later becoming tartar (mineralized plaque), which must be removed with a professional cleaning, is to provide preventative care at home. There are a variety of home care solutions to minimize plaque and tarter formation and thus limit the number of professional cleanings that are necessary.
Brushing: Brushing your pet’s teeth is the single most effective means to prevent dental disease. This is because the mechanical action of brushing sweeps away the plaque film before it has time to mineralize. Daily brushing is ideal to improve dental health, while brushing every other day will help maintain dental health in its current state and slow the progression of tartar accumulation. Almost all dogs and most cats will eventually accept brushing. The key to success is to be patient and gradual in your approach, brushing mainly the outside surfaces of both top and bottom teeth. We recommend CET toothpaste for pets, which is pet safe and comes in several flavors such as chicken, beef, seafood, and vanilla-mint. Avoid human toothpastes as they usually contain abrasives and detergents that can cause health problems when swallowed. Specific veterinary toothbrushes are very soft and angled to assist in brushing the back teeth. Soft child’s toothbrushes can also be used for larger dogs.
CET Oral Rinse: This rinse provides antibacterial benefits that last for several hours. It is safe for pets and easy to use. The rinse is applied by squirting a small amount inside the cheek on each side of the mouth. The main ingredient, chlorhexidine, binds to the gum tissues, tooth surfaces, and existing plaque, then is gradually released into the oral cavity. Some dogs and cats may object to the taste of the product. While this may be easier to use in some pets, it is not quite as effective as brushing. CET rinse can also be applied to a gauze sponge and then quickly applied to the gum line of most teeth, which can be easier than brushing.
Special Dental Diets: Hills Science Diet T/D is a diet specially designed and proven in laboratory tests to decrease plaque and tartar accumulation. The kibble has a special mesh design that helps to scrub the tooth as the pet bites into it. This works fairly well for back teeth but not as much with front teeth, as pets do not chew with their front teeth. As the kibbles are very large, some people do not like to use this as the primary food and will instead use it as a supplemental treat. Not all pets can use this diet, especially if there are other dietary conditions to consider.
Dental Chews: Anything that promotes chewing will aid in dental care, but dental health-specific chews and treats are more effective (they have additional ingredients or are specially formulated to target plaque and tartar). Care must be taken when giving additional treats or chews, as this adds extra calories to the diet and may lead to weight gain. Many treats and chews that have proven efficacy can be found on the website for the Veterinary Oral Health Councel (www.vohc.org). Some Kong rubber toys have nubs on them that help to massage the teeth and gums as dogs chew and may be a better choice for dogs that do not chew treats adequately. We do not recommend natural bones or hard Nylabones, as these are harder than natural teeth and are frequently associated with broken teeth. Never leave your pet unattended with chews or chew toys to decrease the risk of choking or swallowing a large piece that could cause a gastrointestinal obstruction.