If you are diligent about your dental care and visit a dentist regularly, you've probably been warned about the consequences of not keeping up with good dental hygiene. You take notice when the dentist tells you that poor dental habits can lead to tooth decay, gingivitis, periodontal disease, tooth loss, bone deterioration, heart disease and other serious health conditions. Your dog's mouth is very similar to yours, and neglect can cause many of the same problems your dentist warned you about. Are you as diligent with your furry friend's mouth as you are with your own? If not, you should be. Here's why.
According to the Banfield Pet Hospital State of Pet Health Report, 91 percent of dogs 3 years or older have some form of dental disease. It's the most common disease in adult dogs and includes conditions such as tartar buildup, plaque formation, inflammation of the gums, tooth decay and periodontal disease. It's never too late to start a dental regimen that can stop or even reverse the effects of poor dental care in your dog.
The All Important Dental Exam and Cleaning
As part of your dog's annual health checkup, your veterinarian will check his or her teeth for tartar and plaque buildup, chipped or loose teeth and inflamed gums. Every 2 or 3 years, he or she should schedule radiographs to check for tooth and bone problems not visible below the gum line. Your vet will also let you know when it's time for a dental cleaning. During a dental cleaning, your dog will be anesthetized while the doctor cleans the tartar and plaque off your pup's teeth, extracts any loose or damaged teeth, and if necessary, performs a root canal to save an infected or decaying tooth.
Preventing Dental Problems at Home
There are steps you can take to keep your furry friend's mouth healthy in between dental exams. The following tools and procedures will help prevent common dental problems and their associated health concerns.
- Brush your dog's teeth daily. Use a brush designed specifically for dogs or a child's soft-bristled brush. Don't use human toothpaste, which can make your pet sick. Choose a pet toothpaste that contains chlorhexidine gluconate, which has antiseptic properties and helps prevent plaque buildup.
- Use a dental spray after meals to help fight plaque and bacteria that can lead to gum disease.
- Dental chews are doggie treats specifically designed to remove tartar and plaque. Choose one that contains chlorhexidine gluconate or other plaque-fighting agent. Dental chews are a better option than real bones, which can damage the teeth or cause gastrointestinal problems.
- Dental sealants are solutions that you apply to your dog's teeth to prevent bacteria from sticking to the teeth and causing tooth decay and gum disease. Your vet can apply it after a dental cleaning, and you should apply it weekly thereafter.
- Another way to prevent plaque formation and fight bacteria is by adding a commercial plaque-fighting additive to your pet's drinking water.
- Provide a proper diet. There are many dog foods specifically designed to help build strong teeth and prevent plaque. Choose one that has the Veterinary Oral Health Council seal of acceptance.
- Get familiar with your dog's mouth. When you brush your dog's teeth, note the color of the gums and look for redness or swelling, check for loose or chipped teeth and smell his or her breath. If you notice any changes, a visit to your vet is in order. Also look for any signs of pain, such as reluctance to eat or pawing at the face.
Don't let your dog down by neglecting his or her teeth. Start good dental health practices early, and your pup will get use to and even appreciate the attention you give his or her mouth. For more information, contact a vet, like those at the Metzger Animal Hospital.