To maintain a healthy mouth, tooth brushing is the gold standard. By doing this daily to every other day, you will stay ahead of the perpetuating plaque-tartar cycle that causes the most common dental condition seen in pets: periodontal disease. If periodontal disease is allowed to wreak havoc in your pet’s mouth it can lead to destruction of the supporting tissues surrounding teeth leading to tooth loss.
The Secrets to Success
Getting Started: The Tools
The key is plaque removal. If this is not removed, it will have the chance to mineralize and harden into tartar in 36 hours which cannot be removed by brushing. There are many options available as to what tools can be used to remove plaque. Some are softer and more pliable compared to the traditional toothbrush, so they may be tolerated better by your pet initially.
- Gauze pads
- Long cotton-tipped applicator
- Dental sponges
Toothpaste formulated for pets can be used to help facilitate brushing with its fun, palatable flavors, has enzymes to fight bacteria and plaque, and further helps to freshen breath. If your pet is not sold on the toothpaste after a few attempts, you can try a different flavor or substitute it with water flavored with low sodium chicken broth or tuna water for cats. You can soak your plaque removing tool in this water as a tasty treat to ease them into brushing.
Tooth Brushing in 4 Easy Steps
1. Handling the Mouth
You want your pet to be comfortable with you gently lifting the lips so that the teeth are visible and running your fingers along the outer gum line.
2. Investigating the Tools
Lay out your toothbrush or alternative tool and toothpaste tube so your pet can check them out on their own and see them as normal household items.
3. Taste Testing
Place a small amount of toothpaste on your pet’s toothbrush or your finger and have them try it. You can also rub some along the gum line with your finger. If they are not acclimating to the flavor after a few days, then offer a different one or use the water flavoring tips discussed earlier.
4. Start Brushing!
Hold the bristles at a 45 degree angle and erase that plaque along the gum line. Just focus on the outer surface of the teeth, because the tongue does a good job keeping the inside surface of teeth clean.
Still go slow, brushing is an unusual feeling for your pet. You may not be able to brush all the teeth initially, but gradually work up to it. If you can’t get all the teeth, just focus on the ones that tend to get tartar build up faster: the large upper cheek teeth and canines are most common.
Unfortunately, tooth brushing does not work for everyone or every pet. It should not stress your human-animal bond and people do value their fingers! There are many options available aimed at achieving and maintaining a healthy mouth, but just know that there is no replacement for brushing your pet’s teeth.
When planning an at home program and seeking dental products for your pet, we recommend consulting with your veterinarian and checking out the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s website. They have a list of products for dogs and cats that have been awarded their seal of acceptance for proving their effectiveness against periodontal disease.
Take action against periodontal disease for a healthy mouth today!