Most pets may not smile like a Cheshire cat, but although you don’t see their teeth, they are still important. “Flip the lip” to look at your pet’s teeth—what you see may shock you. If you see less-than-perfect brownish teeth, your pet is not alone, because 85% of pets have some form of dental disease by age 3. Tartar builds up on teeth and, left untreated, gum disease and tooth loss follow. The Alpine Animal Hospital team can help you keep your pet’s teeth healthy and bright—follow our three simple steps.

Step #1: Brush your pet’s teeth daily 

Your pet will likely accept toothbrushing readily if you start with a finger brush when they are young. Always use pet toothpaste rather than human toothpaste, which contains ingredients toxic to pets, and brush only the outside surface of the teeth. Brushing two to three times weekly will prevent plaque buildup and keep teeth healthy, but daily brushing will be required if your pet develops problems.

If you are faced with starting home dental care for an adult pet, you can still succeed. Toothbrushing is especially important for toy-breed dogs and brachycephalic (i.e., short-nosed) pets. Introduce brushing gradually, making it part of your relaxation time together. Never force the issue and stress your pet, or risk being accidentally bitten.

If brushing your pet’s teeth is not possible, you can use alternatives, such as dental rinses, wipes, and gels. Take care with water additives, which may deter pets from drinking. We recommend daily dental chew products, such as Greenies and CET chews, which decrease plaque formation by 70%, as alternatives if your pet will not accept toothbrushing. Special dental diets can also help remove plaque. Always ensure that dental chews are the right size for your pet to prevent choking. Many pet owners believe that chews like bones and cow hooves keep their pet’s teeth clean, but they are usually too hard and may fracture a tooth, or splinter and cause an obstruction. When choosing dental products, look for the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of approval, which guarantees the product lives up to its claims.

Step #2: Bring your pet in for regular oral health exams

When you bring your pet in for an oral health exam, our team approach will allow us to see all of your pet’s teeth—much more than you can see at home—and perform a thorough oral exam. Your pet’s teeth extend further back than the corner of their lips would suggest, and you cannot convince a pet to open wide and say, “Ahhh.” 

The problems we most commonly see on pet oral exams include mouth pain, tartar or calculus, periodontal disease, bad breath, bleeding gums, and receding gums. In severe cases—unfortunately, also common—we may find a deteriorating jaw bone, exposed tooth roots, and loose, painful teeth. Depending on what we see, we may also recommend that your pet be anesthetized so we can take dental X-rays to more closely examine and treat any problems and, if necessary, clean their teeth. (See step #3.)

Owners often believe their pet’s personality and behavior changes are because of old age, but the pet may be reacting to constant mouth pain. If our oral exam reveals any underlying problems, treatment may give your precious pet an entirely new attitude.

Step #3: Schedule regular professional veterinary dental cleanings at our hospital

Regular professional dental cleanings are the most important part of your pet’s oral health. Most pet owners should plan on scheduling a dental cleaning and polishing with us every 6 to 12 months, or perhaps longer, depending on the pet’s at-home dental care, and their risk of dental disease. Ask a team member about our Dental Wellness Plan, which can help you budget for dental cleanings. By starting professional dental care earliere, your pet can enjoy life-long dental health, and avoid serious problems that can develop after years of neglect.

At our hospital, with your pet comfortably anesthetized and a breathing tube safely in place, we will scale and remove all plaque and tartar, and address any problems, such as inflammation, under the gumline, where most of the problems occur. We will also take dental X-rays to look for other issues, such as progressive, permanent bone loss that can lead to jaw fractures, especially in small pets.

Also while your pet is anesthetized, our Alpine Animal Hospital team will thoroughly polish your pet’s teeth to remove the rough surface that invites bacteria, plaque, and tartar to rebuild quickly, and then further protect your pet’s teeth with a fluoride treatment.

Pet owners are often afraid of anesthesia, but veterinary anesthesia is extremely safe these days. Our caring and professional team will perform pre-anesthetic testing, provide state-of-the-art anesthesia monitoring, including blood pressure and body temperature, administer total pain prevention before, during, and after the procedure, and ensure your pet recovers appropriately before they go home with sparkling, clean teeth. 

At-home toothbrushing, and regular veterinary oral exams and dental cleanings—follow these three simple steps, and your pet’s teeth won’t be “out of sight, out of mind.” Call Alpine Animal Hospital for a dental care appointment, so your pet always flashes a healthy smile.