How much do you think about your pet’s pearly whites? Do you assume the brown, yellow, or grey tartar buildup is normal for cats and dogs? Or, are you as diligent about brushing their teeth as you are your own? Whether you are the sort to toss your pet a dental chew once in a while, or the type to tackle daily toothbrushing, here are 10 things our team at Companion Veterinary Clinic has determined your furry pal wants you to know about their dental health. 

#1: Your pet likely has dental disease

If your pet is older than 3, they likely are among the 85% of pets who have dental disease. In fact, some pets experience tartar accumulation, gingivitis, and other periodontal issues before this age. Toy and small breeds, flat-faced pets, and certain breeds, like greyhounds, are predisposed to developing dental disease and may have oral problems sooner.

#2: Bad breath is not normal

Although doggy breath is considered normal by many dog owners, your pet should not have a foul odor coming from their mouth. A faint whiff of their last meal is normal, but bad breath is caused by the bacteria found in plaque and tartar. The more bacteria in your pet’s mouth, the worse their breath.

#3: Plaque and tartar build up quickly

As soon as your pet eats, oral bacteria begin attacking their teeth. Within a few hours, sticky plaque has adhered to the tooth enamel. Then, 24 hours later, the plaque hardens into cement-like dental calculus, or tartar.

#4: Dental disease affects more than your pet’s mouth

The bacteria created by dental disease not only further weakens your pet’s oral health, but also infiltrates their bloodstream. Bacteria travel through the bloodstream to invade organs, namely the heart, liver, and kidneys. In fact, oral bacteria is often found on heart valves in pets with heart disease.

#5: Daily toothbrushing is the best way to prevent plaque accumulation

Since plaque begins forming within 24 hours, brushing your pet’s teeth daily, if not twice a day, is the single best way to prevent dental disease. If you can’t manage to get a good scrub in daily, at least wipe a moistened paper towel across your pet’s teeth. The mildly abrasive fiber will help pull plaque off your pet’s teeth before it firmly adheres to the enamel. 

#6: Not all dental care products are created equal

A plethora of dental care products litter pet store shelves; however, not all of them are as successful at preventing dental disease as they claim. Instead of being attracted to flashy packaging, search for products that bear the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of acceptance. Their accepted products have proven their efficacy when it comes to preventing plaque and tartar accumulation. When purchasing dental treats, chews, food and water additives, and dental wipes and rinses, spend your money where it will do the most good. 

#7: Many chew toys are bad for your pet’s teeth

Are your pet’s favorite chew toys actually bad for their teeth? Many popular chews can cause significant wear and tear on tooth enamel and potentially fracture teeth. Tennis balls, bones, antlers, hooves, sticks, and other similarly hard items are best avoided when it comes to providing canine entertainment.

#8: Dental X-rays are the best way to spot hidden periodontal problems

As much as 60% of your pet’s tooth structure lies below the gumline, not to mention the surrounding supporting structures. Without taking digital dental X-rays, it’s impossible to know what is hidden beneath the gingival tissue. Tooth-root abscesses, retained or impacted teeth, tooth fractures, jawbone loss, missing teeth, and broken tooth roots can cause serious problems if not diagnosed. 

#9: Dental cleanings need to be performed under anesthesia

It would be wonderful if pets would lie back and say “Ahh” to have their teeth cleaned. However, dental cleanings can be uncomfortable as tartar is removed from below the gumline, and if a pet requires extractions, general anesthesia is a necessity. By performing dental cleanings under anesthesia, your veterinarian can gain a more thorough look at your pet’s mouth and achieve a more comprehensive cleaning, all without causing unnecessary stress or pain.

#10: An annual oral exam is essential for your pet’s dental health

Since pets can be tough on their teeth, and plaque and tartar accumulate quickly, annual or more frequent oral exams are essential for spotting early dental issues. Some pets require biannual dental cleanings to avoid oral pain and infection, and a thorough oral exam is the best way to diagnose problems before they become serious. 

Staying on top of your pet’s dental health can prevent painful periodontal problems and more severe issues, like heart disease, from developing later. Give our Companion Veterinary Clinic team a call to schedule your furry pal’s oral exam.