Written By Dr Michelle Trevan
How do I keep my pet's teeth clean?
There are now many options for keeping your pet's teeth shiny and clean.
Dental chews –
Most chews are double action; they manually clean the teeth and have enzymes in them that prevent bacteria sticking to the teeth (yes this helps to reduce the bad breath smell).
Dental chews are great for pets with sensitive stomachs or if your pet commonly develops vomiting or constipation after chewing on bones.
A daily brush is best, but even a weekly clean will make a big difference.
If you are just starting out, a finger brush is recommended; this is a soft rubber toothbrush that slips over your finger (it is less obtrusive and scary than a big toothbrush coming at your pet's mouth).
It is important that you use a pet-specific toothpaste. Along with being safe for your pet to swallow, they are designed to be a yummy reward too – common flavours include beef, chicken, biscuit and cheese.
Dental diets –
If your pet has some dry food in their diet, include one that cleans their teeth. Most dental diets are designed with a larger kibble size so that your pet is encouraged to chew and not just swallow.
Another feature is that they have a honeycomb-like formation on the inside so that as your pet chews, it scrubs and cleans the surface of your pet's teeth. Some dental diets also contain enzymes to keep bacteria levels at a minimum (no more stinky breath)
My pet's breath smells terrible, is it too late to do anything?
Even with advanced dental disease, it’s never too late to get them clean again.
Instead of you cleaning your pet's teeth (great for early or mild dental disease) your vet may recommend a full general anaesthetic to perform a scale and polish, plus any extractions that may be necessary.
This is usually just a day procedure, with your pet back at home with you in the evening. Once your pet is under the anaesthetic, this allows us to fully examine their mouth.
We probe around each tooth to check for deep pockets/loose teeth, we take full mouth x-rays (if required) to check for root issues, remove any teeth that are causing problems and clean under the gum line which reduces gingivitis.
If your pet requires a tooth extraction (or three), a gum flap may be created to remove the tooth (and its long roots) and some dissolvable sutures used to close it up.
For some dogs with hairy faces, they may benefit from a trim (with your approval) along their lips to stop the hairs rolling in as they lick – these hairs act like bad dental floss as the hairs rub between the teeth resulting in gum recession and eventually wobbly teeth.
Once your pet’s mouth has healed and they no longer have dental pain, we recommend following on with the suggestions above to keep their teeth shiny and clean and breath smelling fresh.