Dental cleanings at a veterinarian can be expensive and many dogs hate having their teeth brushed at home. You may be tempted to skip on your dog's oral hygiene, but there can be more at stake than smelly breath. Here are 4 reasons why annual dental cleanings, as well as upkeep at home, are so important for your dog's long-term health. Plus, some tips on keeping those pearly whites healthy!
Dental Cleanings Prevent Dental Disease
This may seem obvious, but what exactly is dental disease? Dental disease occurs as plaque, food debris, and bacteria build up and calcify into tartar on your dog's teeth. Tartar can build up below the gum line causing bad breath, tooth loss, pain, and infection. You can't always see the amount of tartar buildup from the surface! Annual dental cleanings at your veterinarian will ensure that plaque and tartar don't build up below the gum line, keeping your dog's teeth healthy.
Bad Teeth Can Mean a Bad Heart
Whenever there's plaque, there's bacteria. An excess amount of bacteria on the teeth can enter the blood stream and cause heart disease and failure. This spread of bacteria, called bacteremia, can also damage the liver and kidneys long-term. This damage is typically irreversible.
Tooth Loss Can Lead to Malnutrition
Poor dental hygiene can lead to early tooth loss and pain in the teeth and gums. With the loss of their teeth, or pain in their mouths, many dogs will stop eating certain foods, eat less, or stop eating altogether. You can prevent future pain and malnutrition simply by taking your pup to the vet and brushing their teeth!
Intensive Dentals are Pricey!
Dental extractions are invasive and much more expensive than a routine dental cleaning. You can prevent this extra cost, as well as money and care for heart, liver, and kidney disease, by putting in the extra time and effort now. Your wallet will be as happy as your pup!
How to Keep your Dog's Teeth Healthy
Brushing your dog's teeth at home is a must for prolonged dental health. Dog friendly toothpaste comes in yummy flavors like chicken and peanut butter, and you can use a dog toothbrush, finger brush, or even a child's toothbrush safely. Hard chew toys can also help scrape off tartar, as well as hard dog kibble. However, avoid human toothpaste as they can have additives such as xylitol that are toxic to dogs and be careful with extra hard treats such as bones and antlers as they can cause dental fractures in zealous chewers.
Brushing and dental toys should be provided in addition to annual or bi-annual dental cleanings by a veterinarian. No amount of brushing at home can reach the plaque buildup below the gumline!
Dental Disease Risk Factors
It's important to remember that some dogs are more susceptible to dental disease than others. Some risk factors for dental disease include:
The older dogs are, the more at risk they become to developing dental disease and the other associated problems that go along with it. Studies show that 70% of dogs have early signs of dental disease by the age of 3! Early brushing and dentals will help keep those teeth healthier, longer.
Small breeds and flat-faced breeds are more likely to have overcrowded teeth and plaque buildup that is difficult to reach. It is especially important to get these pups in for dentals as they are much more likely to develop serious dental disease at a young age.
Dogs that eat mostly soft or wet foods have more food buildup on their teeth that will lead to tartar and plaque buildup. Hard kibble helps scrape plaque off the teeth, while soft food sticks to the teeth and gumline.
Tips for Brushing
Start slow. Let your dog become accustomed to the toothpaste by letting them lick it off your finger or the toothbrush for a few days before you begin brushing. It may seem counterintuitive, but you can even mix the toothpaste with a bit of chicken broth or tuna juice to make it more palatable. Brushing is more about the friction of the brush than the toothpaste.
Start young! If you have a young puppy, begin brushing their teeth early as part of their training. Eventually, it will be as much as a habit for them as walking on a leash or putting on a harness. Dental treats and water additives can also help if you have a particularly fussy pup.
Be patient and keep trying. Your dog, your wallet, and your veterinarian will thank you!