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    Home Care Following a Dental Cleaning

    Dr. Amy Tate DVM, Practice Co-Owner
    Riverview Animal Clinic


    Congratulations! Your pet has had a complete dental cleaning and has nice, fresh breath. The next question to ask yourself and the veterinary staff should be “How do I keep it like this?”

    There are many things that can be done to help to keep that “just from the veterinarian” clean smell and look at home and extend the benefits from the dental longer. They include routine brushings, food selection, approved toys and treats and oral rinse aids that help manage more complicated gingivitis and periodontitis.

    The biggest tool in a home care tool box for keeping a dental disease at bay is, at minimum, starting and maintaining a twice weekly brushing habit at home.  Brushes come in a variety of sizes – anything from a finger brush to a soft baby tooth brush from the drug store can be used. When introducing your dog to brushing, I always recommend starting with a dry brush – using human fluoride paste or baking soda can be harmful to dogs – and then adding in a veterinary dental paste once your pet is more accepting of the brushing process. Never force the brushing process – start with short sessions and lots of positive reinforcement. If your animals are food motivated (as mine are!) start around meal time, so they are rewarded with dinner after the brushing session is done. With an adult dog or cat, getting the hang of brushing can take patience and practice, but once they get used to it, the process will get easier and more efficient. If you have a puppy or kitten, try to introduce the brushing process around 12 weeks of age in a similar fashion – short sessions with lots of positive reinforcement. Establishing brushing at a young age can lead to healthier lives, as you don’t have to worry about dental disease and its long term health risks.  If brushing is not successful after many tries (or you are worried about losing fingers!) there are new oral rinse products available that can be added to your pet’s water daily. These act as a mouth wash and attempt to reduce the amount of plaque build up in the mouth. Once you have a routine started, keep it up! I know sometimes it will feel like you are not accomplishing anything to begin with, but the effects are cumulative and can be seen over time, so don’t give up!

    In addition to brushing and/or rinsing, other products can be added at home to help manage dental disease, including special foods and treats. Dry food has always thought to be helpful in the prevention of dental disease, as it is thought to create less biofilm – the sticky substance that bacteria use to adhere to teeth – which leads to the development of tartar and gingivitis. Larger kibble (which creates more friction in your dog’s mouth) can help break down this biofilm and can be used as a treat or a regular diet.  To determine whether your pet would benefit from a special daily diet, talk with your veterinarian about whether your pet may be prone to dental disease, either due to facial conformation, immune status (like a fever or other infection as a puppy or kitten that damaged the enamel) or genetics (some breeds are more sensitive to the bacterial population in the oral cavity). Treats endorsed by the Veterinary Dental Society are also available (just check for the seal of approval on the packaging). Usually these treats have enzymes or antiseptics added which aid in managing the bacterial population in your pet’s mouth.

    Speaking of treats, it is recommended to avoid natural bones, antlers or other very hard chew bones for your dog, as these may fracture teeth or, if the bones break and are swallowed whole, they can become lodged in your dog’s intestinal tract.

    The take home message is that dental care for your four legged family members – just like for us – doesn’t stop with the dental procedure. The care we offer our pets at home goes a long way to keeping them happy and healthy for many years to come!

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