The “Good” Word by Dr. Carol Good – Rockford Animal Hospital

*What does pet dental care have in common with the T.V. show, “Star Trek”? (Part 2) *

In my last blog, I introduced the fact that tooth decay and gum disease can have a serious, even life-shortening, effect on a dog or cat’s life. So, if we want our pets to “Live long and prosper” (as they say in the T.V. show “Star Trek”), we need to do something to treat and prevent it from coming back.

Prevention comes in different forms and which method you choose is based on several factors: 1) the age and temperament of your pet 2) how much time and money you are willing to spend and 3) whether your pet is a dog or a cat.

The cheapest and most effective method is brushing your pet’s teeth/gums for 1 minute once daily with pet dental paste. If you do this, it will reduce tartar build up by 90% and reducing gingivitis as well. It’s easiest to teach young puppies and kittens to accept tooth brushing but some adult pets can be trained as well. This method also requires the most commitment on the owner’s part because it must be done once daily or it isn’t worth doing at all.

The second most effective way to prevent gum disease is to have a sealant applied to healthy and/or newly cleaned teeth and gums. This can be done to a puppy or kitten that has recently had all its adult teeth erupt (which happens around 6 to 9 months of age) or to any pet as the final step after their teeth are professionally cleaned and polished. Sealant doesn’t prevent tartar buildup; instead it protects the gum from gingivitis for 6 months. Since gingivitis is what causes bad breath, gum infection and loose teeth, this is the most important aspect of home dental care. Best of all, there is nothing you have to do at home to maintain it. At the end of 6 months, another layer of sealant is applied under anesthesia. If the teeth are covered with tartar or gum disease is detected, then the teeth are cleaned again before the sealant is applied. However, if everything looks great than just the sealant is needed and your pet is good for another 6 months.

Other methods of home dental care are far less effective than either brushing or sealant. They reduce tartar build up by at least 15% or greater if you see the official seal of the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC). Even though they are not the most effective methods of home dental care, every little bit helps.

There are special dental diets (Prescription T/d and Science Diet Oral Care) that clean the molar areas if the pet chews the kibble. Dental chew toys are also helpful in cleaning the molars but some dogs don’t like to chew and cats will definitely not chew on toys. Antiseptic gels, water additives and rinses can decrease the bacteria levels in the mouth but generally will only reduce tartar build up by 15% or less because there is no scrubbing action on the teeth.

In the third and last installment of my blog on pet dental care, I’m going to talk about what happens when a pet comes to our hospital for a professional dental cleaning. Remember, February is national “Pet Dental Health Month” and if your pet gets a professional dental cleaning at Rockford Animal Hospital in February 2015, you get to “Spin to Win” money off your pet’s professional dental cleaning, Sanos sealant or a free dental product.

Pictures below of before a professional dental cleaning and after, with Sanos applied.

teeth before teeth after

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