Preventive dental care

Preventive dental care that you can give your pet at home

Clean and healthy teeth are important! According to some sources, close to 90% of dogs and cats over 3 years of age already have dental problems. Veterinarians recommend that we take care of our pets’ teeth at home, much as we already do for our own and our children’s teeth.

Several commercially available products are designed to help with the oral hygiene of dogs and cats. By using them appropriately, you can contribute to your pet’s the good dental health. The following are some of the things you can do at home to keep Fido and Fluffy’s teeth in good condition.

A multimodal approach to caring for your pet’s teeth

Dentists recommend that we perform a number of daily procedures to maintain our oral health: brushing our teeth after every meal, flossing, using small interdental brushes to dislodge food stuck between our teeth, using mouthwashes, and so on. The purpose of all these procedures is to decrease the formation of plaque and the adherence of bacteria, to slow the build-up of tartar and to help slow the progression of periodontal disease.

Dogs and cats also need proper dental care! The best way to safeguard the long-term health of your pet’s teeth and gums is to adopt a similar multimodal approach that includes the following:

  • Feeding a specialized diet designed to fight tartar and plaque
  • Giving treats and/or chew strips known to reduce plaque and tartar
  • Providing basic preventive care at home, such as brushing your pet’s teeth and applying gel or other products to counter the accumulation of plaque, tartar and/or bacteria
  • Having your veterinarian provide professional dental care (scaling and polishing)

Two different methods to fight periodontal disease and gingivitis

There are a variety of commercially available products that fight plaque and tartar, but they do not all work in the same way. Roughly speaking, products fall into two broad categories: those that work by mechanical action and those that work by non-mechanical action.

Tooth brushing is a perfect example of mechanical action. Brushing the tooth surfaces, i.e. the friction exerted on the surfaces by the toothbrush, helps to remove the plaque that forms and accumulates over time. This helps to reduce bacterial adherence and the formation of tartar or dental calculus.

Other plaque-fighting products that work by mechanical action include certain specialized preventive foods that have been formulated to control plaque and dental tartar, various treats and chew strips, as well as cotton swabs (see below).

The second category of dental hygiene products are those designed to work by non-mechanical action. These products or substances can either dissolve plaque and prevent bacteria from adhering to it or prevent dental calculus from forming on the plaque.

Here are some concrete examples:

  • The addition of chlorhexidine or soluble zinc salts, two antimicrobial agents, to certain specialized oral hygiene products for animals (gels, chew strips, mouthwashes or dental wipes, etc.) helps reduce the formation of plaque and diminish bacterial adherence in the biofilm, thanks to these substances’ antiseptic effects.
  • Delmophinol, a surfactant found in some chew strips, reduces and delays the formation of plaque on the surface of the teeth and helps control gingivitis.
  • Polyphosphates (sodium hexametaphosphate and sodium tripolyphosphate) found in certain products (specialized foods, dental wipes, etc.) help reduce the formation of tartar by sequestering the calcium in animal saliva, which prevents it from being incorporated into plaque and biofilm.
  • Calcium peroxide, which is found in some toothpastes, partly dissolves the biofilm and plaque.

Daily tooth brushing

Brushing teeth is by far the best method of preventing periodontal disease. In order for brushing to be effective, teeth must be brushed every day using the appropriate technique and making sure to brush each tooth surface.

Just as in humans, brushing your pet’s teeth does not replace the need to have them professionally scaled at regular intervals, as recommended by your veterinary team. This is because brushing, even when done properly, removes plaque only on the visible part of the tooth, but does not reach under the gum, where invisible plaque can cause gingivitis and periodontal disease.

One of the important aspects to consider when planning to brush your pet’s teeth is choosing the right toothbrush. The bristles must be soft and straight, and the size of the brush must be well adapted to the animal’s mouth. Another important thing to bear in mind is the importance of introducing your pet to the brush and initiating him to the procedure at a young age. This must be done appropriately and gently. Ask your veterinary team to advise you on choosing the right toothbrush and properly brushing your pet’s teeth.

The role of toothpaste is secondary to the role of brushing. What matters more is the mechanical action of the brush. Toothpaste has no mechanical action; it works through chemical action. The main benefit of toothpaste is that it makes brushing more pleasant for your pet because of its palatable taste. It comes in a variety of flavours, including tuna, beef and chicken. Additionally, since animals cannot spit it out, it is essential to use a fluoride-free toothpaste. It is therefore best to use a veterinary-approved toothpaste that does not contain fluoride and that comes in flavours that your pet is likely to enjoy.

Some cats do not submit willingly to having their teeth brushed. In such cases, you can gently rub toothpaste onto the surface of the teeth by means of a cotton swab or dental wipe. This slight mechanical action will remove some of the plaque.

Incorporating these aspects of dental care into your daily routine will contribute to your pet’s good dental health. Be sure to contact your veterinary clinic for advice.


Read more about specialized preventive foods :

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