February is Pet Dental Month…so what?  Do you brush your dogs teeth?  Do you brush your own teeth every day?  Why do you brush your own teeth?  To prevent problems with your teeth right such as cavities, tooth decay and gingivitis.  Maybe you know that oral health is related to heart health (1).  Did you know that all these reasons are the same for caring for your dogs teeth?

So how do you care for your pets teeth then?  You can buy a pet specific tooth brush.  Flavoured tooth paste really helps in dogs.  You can also buy brushes that fit onto your finger.  Brushing your pets teeth daily or every other day has been shown to have the best protective effect against dental disease.  So start when your pet is young so it becomes part of their routine.  My dog actually comes running when we ask to brush her teeth (doesn’t hurt that she’s a lab and she knows she gets a cookie after!).

There are products that you can sprinkle on top of their food that claim to clean their teeth.  I have my doubts.  I wouldn’t rely on just mouthwash for my oral hygiene.

Take a look in your dogs mouth from time to time.  You are looking for pink gums, not red or white.  White teeth without brown markings.  Broken teeth are a gateway for infection.  Anything strange that you are unsure about should prompt you to check in with your vet.

Your vet make recommend a dental cleaning.  This involves a pet being put under sedation and having a good cleaning and possibly some teeth pulled.  (Side note – I watched a cat have multiple teeth pulled when doing my vet observation hours…now I know where the saying “it’s like pulling teeth” comes from…the vet was getting a workout.  Moral of the story is to prevent your pet from needing to have teeth pulled!).  

Think about the last time you had a dental cleaning or a filling done.  How long was your mouth open? Did your jaw hurt after?  Likely you even had the opportunity to close your mouth for short periods.  That doesn’t really happen for your pet when they have a dental and they may have jaw pain after.  If you suspect this (maybe they are rubbing their face, taking longer to eat or turning their nose up at food), rehab can help to assess and treat jaw pain.

If you want some more information the SPCA has a nice article.

1. K.J. Joshipura, E.B. Rimm, C.W. Douglass, D. Trichopoulos, A. Ascherio, W.C. Willett. Poor Oral Health and Coronary Heart Disease.  1996 Sept. 1; 75(9):1631-1636.