Brushing your pets teeth
Brushing your Pet’s Teeth
Does your pet have smelly breath? A bit of prevention can go a long way towards keeping your pet’s teeth healthy. An estimated 80% of pets have some level of dental disease by 3 years of age. Unfortunately many can go on to develop significant pain and infection from this chronic disease.
While humans tend to get caries or holes in our teeth, pets are more at risk of periodontal disease, which is disease around the base of the tooth near the gum line. The accumulation of sticky plaque, made up of bacteria, proteins and food, hardens to form calculus on the teeth.
This hard calculus causes inflamed and bleeding gums (gingivitis) and as the condition progresses, there is loss of attachment between the gum and the tooth. As the gum separates from the tooth, little pockets of infection develop around the tooth. The bacteria around damaged teeth leads to smelly breath and potentially illness associated with dental disease.
Prevention is Better than Cure
Pets that have their teeth brushed daily will have reduced build up of plaque. There are many benefits to starting to brushing your pets teeth when they are young, but any pet can be trained with enough patience and lots of food rewards.
What do I Need?
A finger toothbrush together with a pet toothpaste is recommended. Pet toothpastes come in a range of flavours such as meat or cheese-flavour, and they become part of the reward for allowing brushing. Do not use a human toothpaste as it is not meant to be swallowed and your pet will hate that minty foaming stuff.
In the early stages it is not really necessary to use toothpaste. The key is to start gradually, using something tasty like cream cheese, fish paste or liver treats. Encourage your pet to allow you to touch the outside of the teeth when they are relaxed (perhaps on the sofa in the evening) and keep the experience positive. You can then build up to a swab/towel/dry-chux wipe over your finger before transitioning to the finger-brush.
How to Brush
· When brushing, all you are aiming to do is to gently rub away that slime layer you can feel on your teeth in the morning when you first wake up.
· Avoid vigorous, back and forth brushing, and use a gentle circular motion, aiming at the gumline.
· Aim for 5 seconds per tooth, once or twice daily.
· Pay particular attention to the gumline and if you are using a brush aim for a 45° angle with the tooth.
· Brush only the outside of the teeth, the tongue will clean the inside.
What if My Pet Already Has Visible Brown Material on the Teeth or Red Gums?
If your pet’s breath is smelly, there is discolouration, recession of the gums and a large amount of calculus then you will need a professional dental clean. No amount of brushing will get hard calculus off the teeth. It will also be painful for your pet.
A scale and polish using an ultrasonic scaler like your dentist uses needs to be performed under anaesthesia to do the job right. Once the teeth are nice and smooth and white, preventative brushing will slow down the build-up.
How Frequently Should a Dental Cleaning be Done?
Ideally, just as with our teeth, pets need a scale and polish every 6-12 months. For some breeds (Pugs, Maltese, Chihuahuas and other small dogs) they are more predisposed to forming plaque from an early age. Cats can also be prone to developing holes or caries in the sides of their teeth. These are called feline oral resorptive lesions and result in very painful teeth. These cats need regular dental treatment.
If you need any help with preventative dental care or are worried about your pet’s bad breath or teeth, please chat to one of our nurses or vets and we can assist you to ensure your pet stays happy and healthy.