Dental Care - Did you know? | Ferntree Gully Vet Hospital - Knoxfield, Boronia, Upwey, Scoresby, Wantirna

Dental Care - Did you know?

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There are many misconceptions about Dental care in pets. This probably mainly comes about by thinking that pet’s teeth and gums are exactly the same as ours. Whilst there are many similarities there are also many differences which I will write about in my next article.

Some of the common misconceptions and questions are:-

 Dry food alone is enough to clean my pet’s teeth

Compared to wet food, dry food generally leads to less plaque initially appearing on the teeth after a meal. Normal dry food though does NOT clean the teeth of plaque any better than soft food unless it is specially formulated. Only dry food which has special interlocking fibres so that it doesn’t crumble on impact can mechanically remove plaque like a bone. The original and arguably the best dry food to do this is the Hills t/d dry food. Normal dry food is NOT an adequate Dental Care plan.

 My dry food has a dental claim

There are many dry foods on the market that have a claim to oral care. Many of these have a chemical additive. This does not remove plaque but helps reduce plaque buildup.They are only of benefit if you are starting from a clean base (eg. after a dental procedure). If there is tartar already present then they are not going to do anything for this. The best dry foods with a chemical additive are those that have the VOHC (Veterinary Oral Health Council) seal of approval eg. Eukanuba Veterinary diets for dogs with Hexametaphosphate

 A toothbrush is all you need to clean the teeth no matter what state the teeth are in

Once plaque has calcified with other substances into tartar, it is impossible to remove with a toothbrush. Tartar is a mixture of bacteria, saliva and food particles that have calcified. Once it has calcified, it is set like concrete and can only be removed by forceful mechanical pressure. Minor build-ups of tartar can be removed in some cases by raw bones and Hills t/d for example. If there is significant tartar buildup then ultrasonic scaling of the teeth is necessary to clean off the tartar. Also remember that all Preventive measures work best when starting from a clean base eg. after a dental procedure

Bad teeth and gums are not painful in pets unless a pet cries out or stops eating

Although most pets with bad teeth and gums do not show obvious signs of pain that does not mean that there is no pain. If you were able to open their mouth and gently go around with a cotton bud many of these pets would give an obvious sign of discomfort or in some cases severe pain. They may continue to eat and also not vocalise. What many pets will do is to change their chewing habits so that they avoid any pressure on the offending teeth and gum tissue. They may chew on one side of the mouth. They also may show a clear preference for softer wet foods as opposed to dry food or bones. Remember that particularly in dogs things have to be pretty bad to stop them eating.

All pets are the same when it comes to dental hygiene

There is significant variation between pets and how susceptible they are to dental disease. Some lucky individuals can be given the softest, mushiest food every day and never get dental disease. Whereas at the other end of the spectrum, some pets could have daily toothbrushing, bones, anti-crumble dry food, water additives etc and yet still have bad teeth and gums. Genetics has a lot to answer for.

Why does my pet need it’s teeth cleaned again when I’ve been diligent with homecare?

Dental cleaning is not a once for a lifetime procedure. If they have needed it once then that shows that they are susceptible to dental disease. And even if all the best steps have been followed after a dental clean that does not guarantee that things will stay the same. Some pets just like people need their teeth cleaned every 6 months. Remember six months is a much longer period in a pet’s life. A term sometimes used for pets prone to dental disease even despite the best measures is “plaque magnets”.

 Why won’t my pet accept any of the homecare measures

We can lead a horse to water but cannot force them to drink. The same with getting pets to chew things. Generally speaking, the earlier age you can start then the better chance of success. Some pets are amazingly co-operative for brushing their teeth whereas others won’t let you near their teeth. Some hate raw bones or maybe feel that chewing is too much hard work. Homecare measures also need to be practical for the household and not too time consuming in these busy days

 What does cleaning the teeth do anyway?

Cleaning the teeth under anaesthetic can stop the early stages (Grade 1&2) of gum disease progressing to the painful stages (Grade 3&4) where the support structure becomes inflamed and infected. Pockets start to develop between the gums and teeth and eventually the tooth loses it support structure. Extractions are often required

When should I start Dental Homecare?

It is best started at an early age for two reasons. Firstly, so that pets will accept it and secondly so that the early stages of dental disease are not allowed to start. We normally do not expect major dental disease until around five years of age. However, this is no reason to delay prevention.




  Effective but need time and co-operation. Best to start from a young age



  Need to supervise and choose appropriate sized bones. Some pets can get gastro upsets


  Dry Food


  Hills t/d ideally as the sole diet can also be fed as ½ of the diet every 2nd day with excellent results

  Chews & treats


  Given daily they can be a good addition to other measures eg. Dentastix, Greenies, Dentabones and Rawhide chews

  Dry Food with Chemical Additive


  They can be softened with water as they rely on the chemical being dispersed in the mouth eg Eukanuba Dog range

  Water Additives


  Healthy Mouth can be added to water with excellent results.

  Oral Cleansers


  Hexarinse and Maxiguard are solutions that can be applied to the gums and teeth daily

M-Mechanical action C-Chemical action

* Selected Products only included

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