Your Pet’s Teeth
Just like people, our pets need healthy and strong teeth to ensure their well-being, comfort and ability to eat and play without pain. This month’s newsletter focuses upon your role in maintaining your pet’s dental health.

The Importance of Clean Teeth and Healthy Gums
Keeping your pet’s teeth clean is vital to your pet’s overall health. Teeth are not only important for eating, they are also crucial for playing, defense and supporting an active lifestyle.

Your pet’s mouth is the entry point for air, liquid, food and toys and provides access to the respiratory, digestive, circulatory and immune systems. That’s why your pet’s teeth and gums need to be clean and healthy — just like yours.

Plaque is a film of bacteria made up of food particles and saliva that collects on teeth every day that can lead to cavities, periodontal disease and gingivitis. Tartar, the hardening and layering of plaque over time and is often seen as a yellow substance on teeth, causes the gums to be pushed away from your pet’s teeth resulting in a swelling of the gums. This swelling allows food and bacteria to enter your pet’s body between the teeth and gums.

Over time, the build-up of plaque and tartar leads to tooth bone atrophy and receding gums creating larger gaps for food, bacteria and other health threats to more easily enter your pet’s body and produce tooth decay.

Ongoing tooth decay can lead to tooth loosening, incredible pain and, if not caught in time, tooth loss. Importantly, swollen gums and loose teeth can allow bacteria and harmful agents to enter your pet’s blood stream causing potentially severe or life-threatening infections.

Monitoring the Health of your Pet’s Teeth
A tell-tale sign that your pet may have dental issues is continuing bad breadth. Bad breadth is often caused by the ongoing presence of bacteria which indicates your attention is required.

Beyond bad breadth, red, bloody or swollen gums indicate your pet is also facing dental challenges that should be brought to the attention of your veterinarian.

Yellow teeth indicate there is likely substantial tartar build-up and high risk of potential health threats. A review by a veterinary professional is needed.

Loose or missing teeth often indicate an advanced stage of dental decay and an immediate consultation with your veterinarian is required.

Pet Dental Stages
The Cleaning Process
The type of food your pet eats can have a tremendous impact upon their dental health. Hard food, such as kibble, can help “scrub” or “brush” your pet’s teeth and exercise the gums as they eat — promoting elasticity and healthy gums. Soft or canned food, on the other hand, often requires results in the involuntary production of additional saliva which can help accelerate the presence of plaque.

We strongly recommend daily or weekly cleaning using a finger toothbrush and flavored toothpaste (poultry, beef and peanut butter are favorites). Always use care when brushing your pet’s teeth and never use a toothbrush or toothpaste designed for humans as they contain abrasives and foaming detergents that should not be swallowed. Before starting, examine your pet’s teeth and gums looking for any cracks, chips or potential sensitivities. Then start slowly in the front, move to the upper back and then lower back — and then work your way forward. Once complete, repeat the process on the other side. Allow your pet to lick the toothpaste and give your pet a “break” between sides. Give them hugs, kisses and encouragement. While few pets enjoy having their teeth cleaned (just like people), greater frequency will result in faster, more effective and less “traumatic” cleanings. And beyond the health benefits, teeth cleanings also result in great bonding with your pet.

Pet Toothbrushes
Rawhide, chew toys and cleaning biscuits can also be effective cleaning agents. Depending upon your pet’s current dental health and the composition of the agent, this approach can be moderately successful. Please contact us if you would like a list of chews, toys or biscuits we recommend.

During your pet’s annual exam, we will review your pet’s dental history and current health. Most pets will require (or should have) their teeth professionally cleaned every five years to remove plaque and dental tartar, prevent decay and promote overall good health.

Professional Dental Procedures
During a professional teeth cleaning, your pet will be under anesthesia so they feel no discomfort. We will conduct a thorough review of each tooth, looking for cavities, cracks, lose or broken teeth. We may also take x-rays to identify any latent or under-the-gum issues.

Importantly, we will use ultrasonic and dental instruments to carefully loosen and remove plaque and tartar above and just below the gum line. During the process we will continually rinse your pet’s mouth flushing out particles. We will also polish your pet’s teeth to remove any remaining plaque and tarter — leaving smooth and gleaming teeth. Depending upon the severity of the encountered plaque, we may also apply a plaque-preventive material to your pet’s teeth.

We will provide you with instructions to keep your pet’s teeth healthy. If we encounter any teeth that cannot be saved, we will refer you to a specialist.

Contact Us
Please contact u if you would like a review of your pet’s dental state, or to schedule a cleaning.

Kirkwood Veterinarians
Kirkwood Staff