If you could easily prevent the medical condition most likely to affect your pet, you almost certainly would. What if we told you that dental disease is the most common condition to affect dogs and cats and likely to develop by 3 years of age? Without regular dental care, dental disease will begin developing in your pet at an early age, and can lead to significant pain, tooth loss, and decreased quality of life over the years. Fortunately, preventing dental disease is easy with our Southern Crossing Animal Hospital team. Here, we outline a prevention plan that will keep your pet’s mouth healthy. 

Annual dental evaluations for your pet

When was the last time you lifted your pet’s lip, or asked them to say “Ah” and looked inside their mouth? If you avoid your pet’s mouth, believing that issues you do not see are not a problem, it is definitely time for a dental evaluation. Ideally, our veterinarians should evaluate your pet’s entire mouth once a year to check for dental disease signs, as well as for oral masses, inflammation, and other abnormalities. A thorough dental evaluation is included in your pet’s annual wellness and preventive visit, which is another reason you should not skip this important appointment.  

If you notice dental disease signs in your pet between visits, contact our team for an appointment dedicated to their dental health. Concerning signs to watch for include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Chewing on one side of the mouth
  • Dropping food 
  • Swallowing food whole
  • Tartar accumulation on the teeth
  • Bad breath
  • Red, inflamed gums
  • Bleeding from the mouth

Regular dental cleanings for your pet

You visit your dentist for twice-yearly cleanings to keep dental disease at bay, on top of brushing your teeth. Your pet requires similar care to keep their mouth in tip-top shape. During your pet’s dental evaluation, we will let you know if a dental cleaning to remove plaque and tartar above and below their gumline is warranted. 

Plaque is continuously deposited on your pet’s teeth by oral bacteria and quickly hardens to cement-like tartar if not brushed off regularly. Brushing removes plaque before it mineralizes, but it cannot remove tartar once it forms—only a professional cleaning can accomplish this. During your pet’s professional dental cleaning, our team scrapes away pesky tartar with special instruments. They also polish your pet’s teeth to remove fine microabrasions left behind by the tools since bacteria can adhere and deposit plaque there. 

 Unlike your dental cleaning, your pet will be anesthetized during their entire procedure. Pets do not understand that the people holding them down and putting scary instruments in their mouth are trying to help. Not only would they suffer extreme stress, but they would also be unlikely to hold still enough for us to accomplish much. Anesthesia allows your pet to relax and wake up with a fresh, clean mouth, with no stress.

Dental X-rays for your pet

Before beginning your pet’s dental cleaning, we will take full-mouth X-rays, which allow us to see each complete tooth. If we treated only what we saw above the gumline, 60% of your pet’s tooth surface would be ignored. And, since most dental disease occurs below the gumline, we would miss the majority of problems. Dental X-rays are necessary to detect problems such as tooth fractures, periodontal disease, root decay, and bone loss that may be causing your pet pain, despite everything looking normal above their gums. If we see problems on your pet’s dental X-rays, we will notify you and recommend appropriate treatment, which may include tooth extractions. 

At-home toothbrushing for your pet

Imagine never brushing your teeth. Your breath would quickly become unbearable, and tartar would accumulate on your teeth. This is exactly what happens in your pet’s mouth if you do not brush their teeth daily. Although regular dental cleanings are critical, the tartar that is removed will quickly accumulate again if plaque is not scrubbed away with regular brushing. Brushing your pet’s teeth may sound unmanageable, but most pets accept it surprisingly well, especially if brushing sessions are paired with yummy treats or a special reward. Try these tips to begin brushing your pet’s teeth:

  • Use only pet-friendly toothpaste and never human products, which contain fluoride that can cause toxicity.
  • Use a small child’s toothbrush or a pet toothbrush.
  • Start by allowing your pet to lick toothpaste from your finger, and then rub your finger along their outer tooth surface. Gradually work up to using the toothbrush to gently brush their teeth.
  • Focus on the outer surfaces of your pet’s teeth—their tongue removes plaque from the inner surfaces.
  • Reward your pet with a special treat, toy, or activity after each brushing session so they form a positive association with toothbrushing.

February is National Pet Dental Health month—there’s no better time to schedule an appointment for a dental evaluation or cleaning, or for our Southern Crossing Animal Hospital team to show you how to brush your pet’s teeth.