Dental Home Care + Oral Health
Dental Home Care & Oral Health
The oral health of our dogs is often overlooked which can have an overall negative impact on their quality and quantity of life. The teeth and health of our canine companion’s mouth isn’t always on the top of our minds when, in fact, it should be. Veterinary clinics have a common practice to assess the oral health of your dog annually as part of their preventative care check up. However, in between appointments, it’s up to you to maintain the health of their teeth and gums by creating a suitable home care regimen.
Why is Dental Home Care Important?
Dental home care, or developing an oral health regimen, is just as important for your dogs as it is for people. This is because if plaque (and plaque bacteria) is allowed to remain on the surfaces of the teeth, it can lead to gingivitis which is the inflammation of the gums. Then, if the gingivitis worsens, it begins to affect the stability of the teeth, and not to mention it ultimately hardens into tartar (calcified plaque). Plaque begins to form on a tooth anywhere from three to five minutes after eating and hardens/calcifies in 72 hrs. If this cycle isn’t broken then the only way to remove the tartar is through a professional cleaning at your veterinary clinic. If home care (or cleanings) are not being practiced, the teeth will eventually loosen, and severe halitosis (bad breath!) sets in, as well as chronic oral pain begins. If dental disease is left untreated, the bacteria will constantly stream into the dog’s bloodstream and will start affecting their heart, liver and kidneys, leading to other future health conditions. However, all of this and dental disease is preventable!
What Does a Home Care Regimen Look Like?
To break the plaque to tartar cycle, it’s important to institute a daily regimen for your dog as once aspects of dental disease have developed, there is very little you can do to treat it except for professional dental cleanings. There are four main things that can be done on a daily basis: tooth brushing, chewing aids, water additives and diet. Ideally you would use a combination of two or three of the options to have the most success! Most options can, and should be, done daily, especially tooth brushing.
Along with brushing your dog’s teeth, nutrition plays a large role in how easily a dog avoids dental disease. Feeding your dog a complete and balanced diet is crucial for their wellness and oral health. This can look like feeding them either a commercial formula, dental diet (large kibble designed to scrub the teeth) from your Vet or having freshly prepared veterinary formulated recipes delivered right to your door from Joy Foods!
What to Use & Not to Use
For tooth brushing, please use a soft bristled toothbrush and pet friendly toothpaste that can be purchased at your local veterinary clinic or pet supply store. Human products contain fluoride and sweeteners that can be toxic to dogs (eg: xylitol). For chewing aids, Joy Foods sells all-natural Bully Sticks that are fibrous and help with recreational chewing and potentially even plaque removal. They are soft, pliable and tasty! When it comes to chewing aids, giving one daily can provide maximum benefits (but be mindful of the calories!).
Professional Dental Cleanings
Despite setting up a daily practice for dental care, eventually most dogs will require a professional dental cleaning with their Vet. These are important to fully assess their overall oral health, from probing/charting all the teeth, taking dental x-rays (as some dental disease happens below the gumline), as well as scaling and polishing the teeth. Once the teeth have been cleaned, then the home care regimen can begin again with a fresh slate! The idea of the regimen is to prolong the need for professional cleanings as these need to be performed under general anesthesia. Although regarded as safe in healthy animals, it’s optimal to reduce them as much as possible, and a well thought out, practical home care plan can do that!
As a whole, it’s a great idea to be aware of what’s going on in our dog’s mouth by taking a look and smelling it regularly. A dog’s breath should have a neutral odor, and any indication of bad smells can be a sign of disease so if that occurs, please have them assessed by your Veterinarian. If you can organize a dental home care plan that works not only for your own dog, but for yourself, you are setting yourself (and your dog) up for good health and success!
Article by Kelly Gredner RVT, VTS (Nutrition)
Kelly has been a Registered Veterinary Technician for 14 years with the last five of them being as a Nutrition Technician, specialized through the Academy of Veterinary Nutrition Technicians (AVNT). Her interest in nutrition grew as the years went on and she loves being able to help beloved pets, one bowl at a time. She currently resides in Toronto, Ontario with three cats and works full-time in a small animal practice.