Dental Health: Brushing

At the Cuyahoga Falls Veterinary Clinic, we are serious about dental and oral health. As we mentioned in our recent Dental Health – Periodontal Disease blog post, periodontal disease is the most common health problem that we find in small animal veterinary medicine. When we speak with owners about dental disease and their pets, one of the most common questions we hear is, “What can I do at home to prevent periodontal disease?”

It’s a great question!

The best thing you can do for your pet-friend’s mouth is to brush the teeth on a daily basis. Tartar forms on cat’s and dog’s teeth just like it forms on human’s teeth.  Unless there is regular friction applied to the teeth, the thin, morning-breath-like film will harden, accumulate, and build into visible dental tartar.

Dental tartar is a combination of dead skin cells, salivary proteins, food particles and bacteria.  It is not healthy for this to sit adjacent to the gum tissue.  So brushing on a regular basis helps to reduce this buildup and spread out the frequency of necessary professional cleanings.

It is helpful to provide things to chew that can provide friction to the teeth where friction is needed.  But notice how the teeth come together.  Cats and dogs are similar in that the upper premolars and molars overlap the lower premolars and molars.

Therefore, the friction that takes place when dogs and cats chew is between these surfaces.  Dogs and cats rarely get any friction on the outside surface of their upper teeth.

So if you decide to take on daily brushing, focus your time, energy and resources on brushing the outside surfaces.  The dog on the right here would have benefited from regular brushing on the outside surfaces.  Note how there is a very clean surface on the outside of the lower teeth, but that the outside surface of the upper teeth is covered with dental tartar.

When dental tartar accumulates to this point, not only does the tartar that we can see need to be scaled away from the surface of the tooth, but the gum-line also needs to be cleaned and examined to be certain that there are no pockets or tracks where bacteria can find a home beside the underlying bone or tooth roots.

Once the teeth have been cleaned, or if you’re able to start from puppy-hood, daily brushing  will help maintain clean, healthy teeth.

“How do I brush my pet’s teeth?” you may ask.

It’s easier than you think.  Gretel, Dr. Ryan’s Boxer, will again join us to demonstrate.

Choose a pet toothpaste of a flavor that your pet will enjoy, hold your pet’s upper lip in such a way to expose the outside surface of the upper teeth, and work the brush back and forth at a 45 degree angle from the gum-line to the tip of the tooth.  Again, focus your time, energy and resources on brushing the outside surfaces.

For more information, visit Dr. Fraser Hale’s tips on dental home care.  (Keep in mind that some animals will take to brushing very quickly while others will need some time to learn that this behavior is okay.)

Remember, the purpose of regular home dental care and brushing is to maintain a healthy mouth and body!

For more information about mouths of dogs and cats, visit our Dental and Oral Health Set on Flickr.

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