Oral health in pets is real important.
It’s often overlooked.
It’s often not addressed until it’s obvious your pet has a rotten mouth.
Gum inflammation is a major source of disease and death!
In the sense that bacteria in the blood stream is a major cause of kidney, liver, and heart disease. And that kidney, liver, and heart disease are often fatal. And that the number one way for bacteria to enter the blood stream is through inflamed gums!
Unless you’re broke.
And unless you don’t take pet care responsibility seriously.
You need to heed your veterinarian’s advice to clean, inspect, and polish your pet’s teeth. How early and how often will depend on the individual pet, it’s age, breed, and the condition of the teeth and gums.
Okay, that’s the introduction. We hope that you’re one of those wonderful people who believe in preventive health care for their pets and are willing and able to spend the effort and money to do the job. You’l find a discussion below about all the options and products designed to make your job easier and effective. And as usual, a scattering of comments, miscellaneous information, jokes, pictures, links, and so forth. As always, God Bless, Roger Ross, DVM
Want to get on board and help your pet? Here’s a summary and some comments about all the things you can do. We realize that some pets are more difficult to treat than others, so hopefully you’l find at least a couple of things that you can manage that will help your pet live a happier, healthier life.
OraVet Dental Sealant
I’ve listed this new service at the top of the list because it’s likely to be the most effective at protecting your pet’s teeth from plaque and the resulting gingivitis that causes periodontal disease.
Plague begins accumulating on the teeth in as little as 6 hours. You know this intuitively when you think about your own teeth… what’s your mouth feel like if you don’t brush your teeth for a day?
One of the most effective means of preventing plaque and calculus formation once your pet’s teeth have been professionally cleaned is by sealing the teeth with the newly available tooth sealant call OraVet.
This new product is applied in concentrated form with a bonding agent by your veterinary dentist after the teeth are cleaned under anesthesia. This creates an invisible barrier preventing bacteria from attaching to the tooth surface.
Unfortunately, this protective seal doesn't’ last forever, and for ideal results an additional coating of the polymer should be reapplied at home by the owner weekly. Nonetheless, we’re still pretty excited about this product because it works so well and it turns out that the reapplication process is quite simple…you just apply a thin line of the sealant with a swab along the upper gum line.
Professional reapplication of the bonding agent should be reapplied every 6-12 months for best results…which just happens to correspond to how often your pet’s teeth should be professionally cleaned in ideal circumstances.
Not only does this sealant work better than brushing, but let’s face it, we’re having a hard time getting people to brush their pet’s teeth day in and day out. Whereas weekly swabbing is manageable.
The sealing gel is odorless, tasteless, super safe, and invisible once applied. There’s all kinds of published studies raving about how effective these sealants are in the prevention of oral disease. Most other products are designed to remove plaque from teeth; OraVet is designed to prevent plaque from bonding to the teeth in the first place!
Ask your vet if he or she offers dental sealing yet. Most vets are charging about 10 times less than human dentists for the same service.
Note: this new sealant is not damaged by brushing or oral washes and gels. And while I just said sealing is better than brushing, it would be even better to also brush or supply your pet with dental chews, Greenies, and so forth. Just like with us, we ideally take a multi-prone approach (Brush, floss, and swish), except with pets it’s a little impractical to floss and swish.
Tooth Pastes: Daily brushing…or even brushing 3 times weekly (it takes plaque about 2-3 days to really bond tightly to the enamel) is very helpful and effective. The only big negative is getting people to do the job and getting the pet to accept the procedure on a regular basis. On the other hand, a good many pets will readily accept brushing, and even seem to enjoy the attention and the various flavors (including poultry flavor) of tooth pastes available for pets.
Note: Human toothpastes are not recommended. For one thing, they weren’t designed to be swallowed. And dogs and cats have different pH levels in their saliva making human toothpastes less effective.
Chlorhexidine is widely used in medicine as a germ killer safe to mammalian tissues and kills bacteria, fungi, and some viruses. It also happens to be the most effective plaque-inhibiting agent used in human dentistry. Once in contact with the teeth, it works well for about 24 hours, the only catch being that the contact duration needs to be at least several minutes for the agent to attach to the enamel. There are several products designed to do this:
There are chewies and rawhide type products containing 10% chlorhexidine that work well. C.E.T. Hextra Premium Chews is a common brand sold by vets that works well. In this case, the rawhide chewing also provides the benefit of mechanical plaque removal.
Milk Bones and other similar biscuit type bones heavily advertised for “clean teeth”:
I don’t know how effective these are. One dental seminar speaker claimed they did more harm than good! The mechanical removal of plaque from chewing something crunchy is good, but the ingredients of baked starch and fat is, while delicious to most pets, are ideal “food for oral bacteria” and that’s bad.
Greenies: In contrast to Milk Bone type treats, dental seminar speakers are giving high praises to Greenies. They’ve earned the Veterinary Oral Health Council seal of approval (VOHC) in 2004. They’re certainly well liked by most dogs. Lots of dogs go nuts when offered Greenies.
They’re quite expensive compared to Milk Bone type treats, but you might decide that the ease of use, the pleasure your dog gets in chewing these things, and, of course, the oral health of your pet is worth it.
Greenies crystals for cats are now available too.
Maxiguard Oral Gel: Another great and effective product that’s fairly easy to use for both dogs and cats. And it’s the most effective breath freshener we’ve used. Maxiguard is a complexed zinc and vitamin C gel that stimulates gum healing, oxidizes bacteria, chelates sulfur compounds that cause bad breath, and reduces the amount of harmful proteolytic enzymes produced by bacteria that cause gum inflammation.
You simply smear a little gel on the teeth with your finger or directly from the bottle. You don’t have to carefully apply it to each individual tooth as it will mix well with the saliva and distribute itself over the teeth and up into the pockets hidden by the gums.
This is a great product if you’re willing and able to get in the habit of using it at least several times a week. Most cats and dogs accept this product well. It’s alcohol free, tasteless, and has a bonding agent that helps it bond to the gums and mucus membranes. I especially recommend this in pets after dentistry who had extractions, oral ulcers, or other types of advanced oral disease. It’s also nice for pre-dentistry as it strengthens connective tissue and reduces bleeding time.
I really like Maxiguard Oral Gel ... It's what I use on my pets.
Hexametaphosphate and acetic acid products: These agents are effective at binding mineral deposits and therefore preventing plaque from turning into tarter or calculus. DenTee Stars and Chews…which also contain grapefruit seed extract and clove are examples. DentAcetic Wipes are dental swabs are similar except instead of feeding your pet chewies, you swab the product on the teeth with these little wipes that fit over your finger tip. Gels are also available.
Ham Bones, etc: The frequent chewing of bones is very helpful and good for the teeth. And this should appeal to those of us who like that it's a natural thing to do. However, bone chewing can cause digestive upsets, bone splinters wedged in the roof of the mouth or worse, cause serious damage further down the digestive tract. And bone chewing in dogs with really bad teeth could cause a jaw fracture. So, exercise a little judgement and avoid bones that are prone to splintering such as cooked poultry bones, rib bones, etc.
Chew Toys, Chew Ropes, NylaBones, etc: All these things help exercise the gums and to different degrees remove plaque. The main trouble with this type of thing is getting your pet to use them regularly, especially once they stop being puppies and become mature like me. Some mechanical methods of removing plaque such as playing tug of war with nylon rope probably help quite a bit if done regularly…especially if the rope is designed for cleaning teeth and coated with chlorhexidine or hetametaphosphate.
Diets designed to promote oral health:
The easiest method of all, of course, is to simply feed your pet one of the new diets designed to reduce plaque and tarter. It’s a little difficult to tell from the studies and research which brands are the most effective, but I’ve been impressed with Hill’s TD (Tartar Diet). Even when fed a few chunks a day as treats instead of food, my clients have seen improvement in both breath and teeth cleanliness.
TD is a prescription diet sold by vets, but the same company makes Science Diet Oral Care for cats and dogs which is sold by quality pet stores. TD and Oral Care contain a specially developed fiber matrix that simulates flossing when pets chew the kibble enabling it to clean up under the gum line…not just the visible tips like most other foods claiming to control tarter. It works “like a squeegee cleaning glass”. These diets have earned the Veterinary Oral Health Council certification which is pretty impressive.
Iams and Eukanuba diets containing teeth cleaning micro-crystals have a reputation for effective tarter control. I’m not sure how effective these crystals are though and none of the seminar speakers have come out yet and told us “hey, you vets need to be recommending Eukanuba diets for tarter control because it’s really working well.” Keep an open mind until I find out more, please.
Anything crunchy that your pet chews theoretically helps with tarter control, so lots of products claim something along the lines of “Aids in the control of plaque and tarter”, but such foods weren’t specially developed to be effective dental diets…they just happened to be crunchy or tough to chew like rawhides and rubber chew toys.
The big question with such products is How Effective are they under the gum line where the real battle for oral health rages?
Doxycline gel: This is an antibiotic gel that is quite effective in fighting and preventing oral infections and is prescribed by your veterinarian for the treatment of advanced gingivitis and for after extractions and so forth. It is often packed in gum wounds during surgery and stays effectively in place for over a month.
A little Joke:
A man was being tailgated by a stressed out woman on a busy boulevard.
Suddenly, the light turned yellow, just in front of him.
He did the right thing, stopping at the crosswalk, even though he could have
beaten the red light by accelerating through the intersection.
The tailgating woman was furious and honked her horn, screaming in
frustration, as she missed her chance to get through the intersection,
dropping her cell phone and makeup.
As she was still in mid-rant, she heard a tap on her window and looked up into the face of a very serious police officer.
The officer ordered
her to exit her car with her hands up.
He took her to the police station where she was searched,
fingerprinted, photographed, and placed in a holding cell.
After a couple of hours, a policeman approached the cell and opened the door.
She was escorted back to the booking desk where the arresting officer
was waiting with her personal effects.
He said, 'I'm very sorry for this mistake. You see,
I pulled up behind
your car while you were blowing your horn, flipping off the guy in front of you, and cussing a blue streak at him.
I noticed the
'What Would Jesus Do' bumper sticker, the
'Choose Life' license plate holder, the 'Follow Me to Sunday-School' bumper sticker, and the chrome-plated Christian fish emblem on the trunk;
I assumed you had stolen the car.