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  • Dr. Lohit Busanelli

Preventative care basics: Brushing your dog's teeth

Preventative care is extremely important when it comes to dental disease! About 80% of dogs tend to have some extent of dental disease. This is why we in the veterinary profession feel that education about this topic can go a long way in helping dogs and cats try and minimize the development of dental dis

ease in their lifetime. The simple act of brushing your pets teeth can actually go a long way in helping them reduce the build up of tartar.

What is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease results from bacteria in the mouth that hardens and forms dental calculus on the teeth. Bacteria under the gum line create inflammation, resulting in gingivitis and damage to the ligaments that keep the teeth firmly anchored in place. When dental disease goes untreated, teeth can become diseased, loose, and may even fall out.

How do you prevent this?

There are several ways to prevent periodontal disease. The best at-home care is tooth brushing with pet toothpaste. We can discuss techniques to get your dog acclimated to this daily routine. For dental tartar and gingivitis that have already developed, dental cleaning, scaling, and polishing under anesthesia is recommended. This procedure can be scheduled through our service.

How to brush your dog's teeth?

The best way to introduce brushing is to start by getting your dog used to you being near their mouth.

For the first week, raise your dogs lip and touch the teeth and immediately follow this with a treat and praise. In the second week, touch your dogs tooth with the toothbrush, immediately followed with treats and praise. A soft, nylon-bristled pet or infant human tooth brush is recommended. Ask us for more details when you visit the clinic and we can provide you with a free tooth brush and some samples of tooth paste! The third week, begin brushing the outside surface of the teeth with the mouth closed, again make sure to reward with a treat and praise! Begin by placing a toothbrush between the lips and outside surfaces of the teeth with the mouth closed. It may help to only do a small area of the mouth and then break for a treat and praise prior to continuing. The toothbrush is placed at a 45-degree angle to the gum line and, using a circular motion, the outside surfaces of the teeth are brushed. You do not need to brush the inside of the teeth as the tongue will naturally help keep this area clean. Human toothpaste is AVOIDED because it may contain fluoride and detergents that are harmful if swallowed. A toothpaste for dogs and cats is recommended if it helps the brushing experience i.e if your dog likes the taste! We can provide you with some samples if you want to try and see if your dog likes it! Alternatively, you can utilize just warm water or even chicken broth on the tooth brush. It is very rare for dogs to get cavities so the most important part of brushing is the mechanical action of the toothbrush removing the plaque from the teeth rather than the use of toothpaste. As we discussed, if Harry is opposed to the idea of a toothbrush, placing a piece of gauze around your finger and going over the outside surface of the teeth can also be effective in some dogs if Harry is cooperative.

Develop a routine in a comfortable area of your house for you and your pet. Ideally, the teeth should be brushed once a day. This will prevent plaque from becoming mineralized and turning into calculus. However for dental tartar and gingivitis that have already developed, dental cleaning, scaling, and polishing under anesthesia is recommended.

In addition to brushing or if your dog will not tolerate you brushing his/her teeth, there are dental specific treats for dogs that can help slow the development of more periodontal disease. The only products we can safely recommend are those products which have received the Veterinary Oral Health Council's (VOHC) Seal of Acceptance. A list of those products and more information about the VOHC can be found at their website:

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