Dental care is extremely important for your pet’s overall health. Dental disease is one of the most common medical conditions a pet will develop in her lifetime, since more than 70% of pets have developed some form of dental disease by age 3. Dental disease also has the potential to spread to other body organs, creating a potentially life-threatening situation. We want to help you prevent dental disease in your pet—and to help you keep them healthy for years to come. 

Listen to a conversation between veterinarian Dr. Spencer, the Adams family, and the best dental coach next to our veterinary team—the tooth fairy. 

Dr. Spencer: Mr. and Mrs. Adams, we found eight loose teeth and significant gingivitis during Sardine’s dental procedure today. We think you may benefit from our dental specialist and coach, Ms. Tooth Fairy.

Ms. Tooth Fairy: Hello Adams family. Coaching pet parents about dental care is my passion. I  will set you up for success so there are no surprises after next year’s dental check-up and cleaning at our clinic. 

What causes dental disease?

After pets eat, oral bacteria deposit a sticky film, called plaque, on pets’ teeth that, if not removed quickly, will mineralize into an extremely hard substance, called tartar, that can only be removed by specialized dental tools. Bacteria also will burrow beneath a pet’s gumline and cause periodontal disease, which leads to painful tooth-root infections, abscesses, loose teeth, and jawbone deterioration. If the bacteria get into the bloodstream, life-threatening heart, kidney, and liver disease can occur. 

Mr. Adams: Ms. Tooth Fairy, can you tell us why our cat needed eight teeth extracted? Sardine had one of those non-anesthetic dental cleanings a few months back, and we were told that her teeth looked great. 

Ms. Tooth Fairy: Sadly, non-anesthetic dental cleanings focus only on the part of the tooth that is above the gumline, yet a majority of each tooth is below the gumline. With non-anesthetic cleanings, only the teeth above the gumline can be examined, because dental X-rays are needed to see tooth loss and other problems below, and dental X-rays are not possible unless the pet is anesthetized.

Mrs. Adams: That’s why Dr. Spencer was so adamant about dental X-rays. Obviously, identifying teeth that are loose or infected, and need to come out, is important. Wait, that sounds like it would hurt? 

Ms. Tooth Fairy: Unfortunately, gum infections, called gingivitis, and other problems like loose or fractured teeth, or abscesses, can cause significant pain. 

Mr. Adams: Oh, poor baby Sardine. Now I am fully invested. How can we prevent Sardine from more infection and pain? 

How can you tackle your pet’s dental disease at home?

Ms. Tooth Fairy: Daily toothbrushing at home, preferably always at the same time, will be the mainstay for Sardine’s healthy mouth.  

Mrs. Adams: I think brushing Sardine’s teeth makes sense right after I brush my own teeth—that will help me remember by integrating her routine into my own. What do I need to do?

Ms. Tooth Fairy: First, you need to get Sardine used to a pet-friendly toothpaste, which you can get in different flavors, like meat or peanut butter. Never use human toothpaste, which could make Sardine sick. Start out by placing a small amount of toothpaste on your finger and letting Sardine lick it off. Practice this daily for a week. 

The following week, lift Sardine’s lip and place some toothpaste on her teeth. Once Sardine tolerates that, apply the toothpaste to more teeth, and switch to a small pet toothbrush. Patience and perseverance and rewarding Sardine often is key.

Also, you should know that some pets will not tolerate toothbrushing at all. In that case, other dental products, such as water and food additives, prescription dental diets, oral gels and wipes, and chews can help. Always use products with the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s seal of approval, because only they are proven to slow plaque and tartar buildup.

What else does your pet need in addition to at-home dental care?

Mrs. Adams: We will start right away. What else can we do for our cat’s teeth? 

Ms. Tooth Fairy: Once you have Sardine’s at-home regimen under control, you should schedule her for a professional dental exam and cleaning, which she should get every year. 

Mr. Adams: This last anesthetic dental procedure was a wake-up call. Our previous hesitancy stemmed from our fears about anesthesia.

Ms. Tooth Fairy: Pet parents are often wary of anesthesia, but being anesthetized not only ensures that Sardine feels no discomfort, but also that she is not fearful or anxious. Our veterinary team will always ensure Sardine is healthy enough for anesthesia, and will monitor her throughout the procedure and recovery to keep her as safe as possible. 

Mr. Adams: Now you have reassured us, we will schedule her next dental procedure, and start her at-home toothbrushing in the meantime. Thank you for all your help, Ms. Tooth Fairy.

Has it been more than a year since your pet’s last professional dental cleaning? Call our hospital for an appointment to evaluate their dental health and help keep them healthy for years to come.