February is National Pet Dental Health Month – I Say No Way! Let’s make it a year-round goal.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the month of February is National Pet Dental Health Month. This was started to raise awareness to our pets’ oral health which is a fantastic goal. I support this notion, but all kidding aside, it takes more than one month out of twelve to make a healthy mouth.
Unfortunately tartar happens. We humans brush our teeth every day, twice a day. When we visit our dentist (ideally twice a year) they can still find plaque and tartar to remove from our teeth. Our four-legged friends are not that different in what causes periodontal disease, except that they don’t open up and say “ahhh” nearly as much as we veterinarians and owners would like. It starts when bacteria and plaque harden to tartar. This leads to inflammation and infection of the gums which eventually works its way to the roots of the teeth and at its worst, leads to loss of bone, loosening of the tooth, and loss of the tooth.
Even more concerning, advanced dental disease can lead to bacteria in the bloodstream which can cause microscopic damage to the heart, liver, and kidneys.
The key to managing dental health and therefore gum infection and tooth decay is prevention! Brushing daily to every other day is the gold standard as this keeps the plaque from becoming hardened tartar. However, when this is not an option, consider daily chewing activities. When using products to clean you pets’ teeth, make sure they are approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council and appropriate for your pets’ size and chewing capacity. There are prescription dental diets that can be used as aids as well, as can a variety of oral rinses, sprays, and enzymatic chews from C.E.T.
Also, have your pet’s mouth checked periodically by your veterinarian. If we recommend a professional dental cleaning, or dental prophy, take it to heart as we are trying to prevent your pet from having to have numerous teeth extracted. Regular professional dental care is a great addition to the care you provide at home in order to control plaque and tartar! Depending on breed, genetics, chewing habits, and homecare routine, some pets may need a professional prophy and evaluation every 6-12 months to maintain oral health – just like us! Others will need it much less frequently.
Good luck folks! Keep smiling and don’t be afraid to talk to us about your pet’s dental health, no matter what month of the year it is!