What is dental home care?? Dental home care refers to anything that you, as a pet owner, can do at home to help control dental disease in your pet. The basis for dental disease is the build-up of plaque, a biofilm of bacteria, on the surface of the teeth, both above and below the gum line. The best way to prevent inflammation, pain, and disease that results from this plaque is to remove it on a daily basis (before it hardens into tartar/calculus).
The gold standard for dental home care is to brush your pet’s teeth every day. This process requires a couple of supplies – a soft bristled toothbrush and a pet safe toothpaste (no fluoride). It also takes patience. Some pets are eager to participate and allow you to jump right in. However, most will be more hesitant and will likely require a more gradual approach. You can start by allowing your dog or cat to lick toothpaste off your finger and proceed to running your finger (with toothpaste) over their gums. Do not attempt to open your pet’s mouth, as it is likely that this will not be well accepted. The plaque build-up is concentrated on the outside surface of the teeth, closest to the inside of the cheek. Rewarding with a treat after each session will help make it a positive experience. Once your pet allows you to place the toothpaste in their mouth, you can try using the toothbrush to apply the toothpaste in a fine circular motion. Again, only focus on the outside surfaces of the teeth, and perform brushing with the mouth closed. Some dogs and cats will not allow their teeth to be brushed. If there is danger of getting bitten or damaging your relationship with your pet, please refer to the alternative dental home care options discussed below.
The next best option for home care includes many varieties of dental chews, treats, and diets. For best results, most treats or chews should be given on a daily basis. Please contact us to inquire about specific options. Maxi guard gel (a gel that can be applied to the teeth/gums 2-3 times weekly) and water additives are additional options that can be used if no other options are possible for a particular patient.
It is important to have your pet’s teeth checked every year by your veterinarian to evaluate for any problems and adjust your home care protocol if needed. Dental disease is a process that has significant breed and genetic influence. This, combined with the degree of home care utilized, will determine the frequency of in-clinic professional dental cleanings.