What can you do to help your pet have a fresh and healthy mouth? First of all, ask questions when you go to the vet clinic. Most veterinarians include an oral exam as part of their physical exam of your pet. They will assess halitosis (bad breath), tooth mobility, tartar and plaque accumulation, as well as problems such as broken teeth, root exposure, and gingivitis. Obviously, it is impossible to explain to our pets why the vet is looking around in their mouth, so it is very helpful if you can desensitize them to oral exams at home.
So, let’s talk about how to desensitize our pets for oral exams. This is most easily accomplished with younger pets, but can be done with all ages. The more you have your hands on and around their face, the more they get used to it and realize it is not a scary thing. You can lift their lips to get a better view of their teeth, and then offer a small treat, positive words and petting as a reward. You can desensitize them to touch by using your finger or a plain toothbrush and gently run it across the surface of the teeth. Again, offer praise and petting as rewards. Your dog or cat will begin to look forward to this interaction because they get your undivided attention!
Finally, let’s delve into the topic of to brush or not to brush! I think it’s safe to say that a good 95% of us do not brush our pet’s teeth on a daily or even weekly basis. It’s one more thing to add to the to-do list and generally it’s not going to be their favorite activity (unless you’ve worked with them like we discussed earlier). That being said, brushing truly can change the course of your pet’s life if started BEFORE dental disease takes hold. There have been a lot of studies on dental products, toothpastes, gels, solutions for the water, and products to promote chewing. Those specifics are best discussed one on one with your veterinarian. To keep things simple, the best thing you can do is to just get started. Get a plain human toothbrush, add some water (you can even flavor it with a little chicken broth to ensure a positive experience), and do some gentle back and forth motions across the surface of the teeth.
Dental health is very important to the overall longevity of your dogs and cats. Please call us at 217-529-4499 if you would like to schedule a visit to discuss oral disease or have your dog or cat's teeth checked over. February is national dental health month, there's no better time to have it done!
Our mission is to provide high quality, compassionate veterinary care with a personal touch. We strive to maintain a friendly and comfortable environment for pets and owners and are committed to building strong, respectful, and honest relationships with our clients. Through teamwork, we are dedicated to ensuring the best care possible and treating pets as if they were our own.