When your pooch sidles up to you for a sloppy kiss, do you find yourself turning your head to deflect her affection? Do you frequently apologize to household visitors for your pet’s stinky breath? Despite popular belief, bad doggy breath is not normal—in fact, it’s a sign that things in your furry pal’s mouth have gone awry, and she needs quick attention to prevent the problem from becoming worse. By joining forces with our veterinary team, you can help get your pet’s dental health back on track.

#1: Schedule a dental evaluation for your pet with our veterinary team

We check your pet from head to toe during annual wellness exams, but problems may develop between visits. If your pet is eating less, shying away when her head is touched, or emitting a foul odor from her mouth, she likely has an immediate problem that can’t wait until her next visit. Schedule a special appointment so we can focus on your pet’s mouth and determine the root of the problem. During a dental evaluation, we will thoroughly examine your pet’s teeth, gums, and oral tissue for dental disease signs.

#2: Have dental X-rays taken to thoroughly evaluate each tooth

A dental evaluation is a good start, but since 60% of each tooth is located below the gumline,  less than half your pet’s tooth surface area can be assessed visually. Visible tartar accumulation on your pet’s teeth may be ugly, but the real culprit is oral bacteria, plaque, and tartar that develop below the gumline on the tooth root. As bacteria invade your pet’s tooth roots, painful periodontal disease, infection, abscesses, and tooth loosening can result. You may think these problems would cause obvious signs, but often no clues are visible that trouble is brewing below your pet’s gumline. The only way to thoroughly evaluate your pet’s dental health is by taking full-mouth dental X-rays, which show each tooth’s crown, root, and surrounding bone. Dental X-rays require heavy sedation or anesthesia, so they are typically performed in conjunction with a dental cleaning. 

#3: Keep up with regular professional dental cleanings

Toothbrushing at home and dental products are helpful for preventing dental disease, but if your pet has tartar accumulation, bad breath, or more severe  problems, you cannot reverse these issues on your own. A professional veterinary dental cleaning is the only way to remove unsightly tartar, clear up infection, and calm inflamed gums to reverse dental disease. If our veterinarians see dental disease evidence during your pet’s wellness visit or dental evaluation, a cleaning is in order. All pets need at least annual cleanings to keep dental disease at bay, but some may need more frequent cleanings.

Our veterinary team will clean your pet’s teeth similar to the way the dentist cleans your teeth. Your pet’s cleaning will include:

  • Scaling tartar from the tooth surface, above and below the gumline
  • Polishing each tooth to remove microscopic etchings created by scaling, where bacteria can adhere
  • Probing the gumline for pockets that indicate periodontal disease
  • Irrigating below the gumline to flush away bacteria and debris
  • Rinsing with an antimicrobial solution

If your pet has teeth that are damaged beyond repair, they will be extracted to relieve pain and prevent further discomfort. 

#4: Begin an at-home dental-care regimen

A professional dental cleaning provides your pet with a clean slate, but her teeth won’t stay clean for long if you don’t begin an at-home dental-care program immediately. Imagine never brushing your teeth, and relying on one yearly dental cleaning to keep your mouth fresh. Expecting your pet to ward off nasty oral bacteria and their effects is unrealistic, unless you scrub away plaque on a daily basis. 

If you’ve never attempted to brush your pet’s teeth, you may be surprised at how accepting she is, especially when she tastes beef-, chicken-, or fish- flavored toothpaste. Start slowly—first touch your pet’s mouth, and reward her with a treat. Then, lift her lip to look at her teeth. Progress to rubbing a little flavored toothpaste on her teeth, and letting her lick it off. Once your pet becomes comfortable with your fingers in her mouth, gently rub the outer surface of her teeth with a finger brush with a small dab of toothpaste. Each step of the way, reward her with plenty of treats and praise, and don’t rush the process. 

#5: Use dental-care products to slow tartar accumulation

Not every dog will tolerate toothbrushing. If your dog becomes anxious or tries to bite, don’t force the issue. Instead, try using dental-care products that inhibit tartar accumulation—these products won’t prevent dental disease as well as brushing, but a little effort can go a long way in keeping plaque away. If you can brush your furry friend’s teeth, tartar-control products add another level of care that may buy more time between professional cleanings. When choosing dental chews, treats, water additives, or other products, look for the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of approval, which certifies that the product has been proven to slow plaque and tartar development.

Are you ready to improve your pet’s dental health? Contact us to schedule a dental evaluation or cleaning, or to discuss at-home dental care.