By Jessica Vogelsang, DVM
If you were to ask your dentist this question, you would get a number of answers: brush after every meal. Floss. Get regular cleanings. All of those individual components add up to optimal oral health. It’s no different with pets: both home care and veterinary care are very important to keep your pet’s teeth clean and healthy.
At home, the best way to clean your dog’s teeth is with a doggie toothbrush and toothpaste. The toothbrushes come in various shapes from long-handled for those long-nosed breeds, to soft-bristled brushes that slip over your finger for dogs with sensitive gums. Pet friendly toothpaste comes in meaty flavors instead of bubblegum and mint. (Don’t use toothpaste meant for people on your dog, as it may contain ingredients like fluoride or even xylitol that can be toxic to pets.)
Treats, chews, and kibbles meant to reduce tartar accumulation can also be helpful. It’s important to remember these are complements, but not replacements, for other forms of care. Because these treats can also be high in calories, they may not be the best choice for pets with weight issues.
As a pet ages, dental cleanings at the veterinary office become important as well. Vet offices use the same cleaning devices that you experience at your own dental office, and the technicians take advantage of the anesthetized pet to get a deep cleaning under the gums, where a good deal of periodontal disease originates. This level of cleaning cannot be accomplished in pets without general anesthesia.