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October 2011 – Routine Oral Care Has Major Benefits:

Dr. Colleen Sawyer enjoys seeing patients at our Oberlin facility and is the newest doctor to our Care First family! She gained experience with us as a technician prior to attending and graduating with honors from North Carolina College of Veterinary Medicine. From her knowledge as a technician, veterinarian, and pet owner, she discusses pet oral health.

Have you ever been kissed by your dog or cat and nearly passed out from their bad breath? Unfortunately many pets have bad breath (halitosis) and it is usually due to underlying dental disease. Pets get plaque and tartar just like us. Their inability to brush or floss their own teeth exacerbates their dental disease and the tartar accumulates quite rapidly. Could you imagine going a few years without ever brushing your teeth?? Or imagine getting a kiss from someone who hasn’t brushed their teeth in years? (for example, your dog or cat!)

Our pet’s oral health will significantly benefit from daily oral hygiene at home just like our teeth do. Brushing your pet’s teeth daily is the number one way to prevent many forms of dental disease. This is accomplished using a toothbrush designed for your dog or cat’s mouth and using veterinary approved toothpaste (do not use human toothpaste as this will upset their stomachs if swallowed). These are available in the front lobby of any Care First Animal Hospital. Keep in mind that your veterinarian should perform an oral exam on your pet before starting any home care dental program. He or she can identify painful dental conditions that need to be addressed first, such as an infected tooth. Brushing an infected tooth is painful. This would make if difficult for the animal to allow brushing even after the tooth was removed because the pet would associate the toothbrush with pain.

A small handful of dog and cat owners already brush their pet’s teeth regularly. As a veterinarian, I have noticed a significant decrease in the tartar buildup on their teeth compared to other pets. For example, during a routine checkup on a lab named “Charlie Brown” I noticed that his teeth were nearly tartar free yet he had not recently had a dental. His owner, Rebeca Moretto, explained that she brushes his teeth regularly and that is what keeps them so clean. Additional options for home dental care include Science Diet t/d. This food is nutritionally complete and helps remove plaque and tartar. Keep in mind that brushing is the single best way to prevent dental disease. Any other dental products are to supplement brushing, not replace it.

Home dental care can significantly prevent periodontal disease but it cannot treat periodontal disease if it is present. Once there is tartar and/or disease, a professional dental cleaning must be done using an ultrasonic scaler (just like the humans use) to remove the tartar, followed by teeth polishing. Even with home care, a professional cleaning once a year is still recommended. Talk to your veterinarian about scheduling a dental cleaning at your Care First Animal Hospital and designing a home dental care program perfect for your pet’s needs. October is dental month- just in time!

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