Home Dental Care Tips

February is Dental Health Month. To help promote dental health in our pets, LAH is offering 15% off dental cleanings. This is a great first step to get the teeth clean of bacteria-laden tartar and to heal inflamed gums. Afterwards, the next best step to keep your pet’s mouth pain free and healthy is to start a regular home dental care routine.

Why should I develop a home care routine?

Inflammation of the gums and development of dental infections are triggered by dental plaque. Plaque is a bacterial slime that coats the teeth. If the teeth are not cleaned daily with brushing, dental chews, or dental diets, within 24-48 hrs, the plaque starts to mineralize and forms hard tartar. This tartar is anchored to the teeth and cannot be removed by brushing or dental chews. The tartar acts as a scaffold for bacteria to colonize. These bacteria release toxins that cause inflammation of the gums and degrade the support structures of the teeth.

How do I prevent plaque formation?

As with humans, daily brushing of teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush is the most effective way to control plaque. The bristles rub against the teeth to remove the plaque and massage the gums to help strengthen their attachment to the teeth. For brushing to be effective, it must be done daily (bare minimum of 4 times a week).

Alternatives to daily brushing exist, but they are not as effective. The veterinary oral health council (http://www.vohc.org/) has a list of products that are clinically proven to prevent plaque and slow tartar formation. Therapeutic diets, such as Hill’s t/d, Science Diet oral care, and the Royal Canin Dental diets, work by mechanically removing plaque from the teeth while the pet is chewing.

If my pet had teeth pulled, my pet should eat canned food only now?

Adult dogs have 42 teeth. Adult cats have 30 teeth (a normal adult human mouth has 32). Our pets may not look like they have such a multitude of teeth, but they do have quite a few. One of the worst things to do after a dental cleaning that requires extractions (teeth pulled because of advanced infection in the mouth) is to put your pet on a canned or soft food diet long-term. The soft food does nothing to prevent plaque formation.

Feel free to ask us any questions that you have about home health care!

Meghan Ryan, VMD

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