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Post Categories: Pet Health Tips

Taking Care of Your Pet’s Pearly Whites

Just as in humans, oral health contributes to your pet’s overall health. Dental disease is extremely common in pets, but you can help to improve your dog or cat’s oral health. Establishing good oral hygiene at home can help prevent your pet from developing serious dental conditions and diseases. Regular brushing of your pet’s teeth minimizes tartar and plaque buildup in between professional dental cleanings by a veterinarian.

Brushing your pet’s teeth can seem daunting at first, but with patience and consistency, you can establish a routine they will be comfortable with.

Check out this short, instructional video by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) on how to brush your pet’s teeth.

There are many pet dental cleaning products at the pet store. However, some products are more effective than others. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations.

Signs your pet may need veterinary dental care

Your primary care veterinarian will check your pet’s teeth at his or her annual wellness checkup. During the exam, the veterinarian will look for plaque buildup as well as see if there are any early signs of periodontal disease that needs to be addressed.

Even if your annual checkup reported healthy teeth, please have your pet examined by a veterinarian if you notice any of the following:

  • Bad breath
  • Bleeding from the mouth (check teeth and gums)
  • Broken or loose teeth
  • Discolored teeth or teeth covered in tartar.
  • Excessive drooling
  • Pain around the mouth area (your pet may try to avoid being touched around the mouth area)
  • Reduced appetite or refusal to eat
  • Red, swollen gums
  • Swelling around mouth area, nose, and jaw area
  • Trouble eating like dropping food from the mouth

Four stages of periodontal disease

Periodontal disease is the most common dental condition in adult dogs and cats. It is inflammation in the structures around the tooth caused by bacteria in plaque. It will eventually lead to tooth loss if left untreated. It also has the capacity to cause harm to the heart, kidneys and other organs when bacteria get in to the blood stream. Most dogs and cats will develop early signs of periodontal disease by 3 years of age. Some breeds, including small breed dogs and dogs with short noses (brachycephalic) are dramatically more predisposed to developing it early in life. Fortunately, periodontal disease can be prevented or slowed down with a mixture of good home oral hygiene and professional care.

There are four stages of periodontal disease.
Image credits: American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC)

Periodontal Disease Stage 1 Periodontal Disease Stage 2 Periodontal Disease Stage 3 Periodontal Disease Stage 4

 Anesthesia for veterinary dental patients

Anesthesia is necessary for the veterinarian to perform a thorough examination and cleaning of your pet’s teeth. In recent years, non-anesthetic dental cleaning services have become popular. While it is natural for pet owners to worry abut anesthesia, anesthetic-free dentistry has higher risks:

  • The person performing the cleaning is often not a veterinarian
  • When an animal is awake, the clinician is incapable of examining or cleaning below the gum line as it is too painful (and therefore unable to prevent periodontal disease from worsening)
  • Radiographs, or X-rays, which can reveal problems in your pet’s teeth that are not visible to the naked eye, cannot be taken while the pet is awake
  • Veterinary dentists commonly see patients with very advanced periodontal disease even though they’ve had regular anesthesia free cleanings. The cleaning that can be done without anesthesia is largely cosmetic and serious disease can go on unchecked.

“For a thorough, safe dental cleaning in veterinary patients, anesthesia is essential, as this permits a comprehensive assessment of the tissues, allows dental radiographs to be made when indicated, followed by the cleaning (scaling and polishing procedure) itself above and below the gum-line. “Non-anesthetic or Anesthesia-free dental scaling” is not recommended by AVDC.” AVDC, Dental Cleaning for Your Pet

Read more about AVDC’s position on anesthesia-free dentistry here.

Advanced dental care

There may be times when your pet will require advanced dental care such as root canals, fracture repair, orthodontics, oral surgery, and so on. Board-certified veterinary dentist or a veterinarian who has extensive experience in dentistry should perform these procedures.

Here at VSEC, we offer a variety of advanced dental services. To learn more, please visit our Dentistry and Oral Surgery page. We accept patients via referrals from your family veterinarian. If you would like to schedule a consultation with our dental clinician Paul Hobson, BVetMed, MRCVS, or for more information, please call 757.935.9111 or email


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