Dental Care Increases Your Pet’s Lifespan

February is Pet Dental Health Month!

Dental care is important for pets for many of the same reasons that it is important to people: preserving teeth and avoiding mouth discomfort. Additionally, the mouth is a potential source for infection that can affect other organs, such as the kidneys & liver. One study demonstrated that pets who received timely & good care of their mouths lived 2 years longer than a comparable pet without dental care. For a pet who lives 12-18 years total, 2 extra years is extraordinary. When one considers all the different aspect of pet care that are possible, one would be hard pressed to find a topic that is so simple and yet could have such a meaningful impact on their pets’ well-being.

There are really 2 basic parts to dental care for the pet: 1) home dental care, and 2) professional dental care. The latter is best exemplified by what owners experience when they visit their dentist: an exam of the mouth to look for problems, and then cleaning and repairing the crowns and other aspects of the oral cavity. The simplest form of professional care is the dental prophy, which involves cleaning the teeth of the tartar/dental calculus that accumulates on the crowns. Pets can have this performed, too; the difference between the owner and pet in this scenario is the willingness of the 2 patients to allow access to their teeth and gums.

For the pet this entails, with a few exceptions, undergoing a general anesthesia. This is most important, as a dental cleaning done without anesthesia is rarely able to accomplish what the whole purpose of a prophy it supposed to do, and that is clean the crowns and gingival pockets of the material that causes infection, bone loss, and ultimately loss of the teeth and damage to the other organs in the body. This is understandable, as cleaning a tooth or gum line of debris and tartar isn’t without some discomfort, and even the most stoic pet is going to be reluctant to allow it to be done to even one spot, let alone the 30-40 teeth that make up a pet’s dental arcade.

Of course, anesthesia is serious business; but when treated as such, the pet is managed so that the anesthesia doesn’t have a negative impact on the pet, but instead fosters the kind of care that improves their lives (like adding 2 more years to their lifespan). At MBAH, we consider this step to be so important that our doctors supervise/oversee each dental case, and make sure that not only the anesthesia goes well but that the cleaning is complete and that mouth is examined for any problems. As a result of this care, we have had thousands of pets receive dental care without an anesthetic loss, and while steering them to improved health and greater time with their owners.

Other care is professionally performed, as well, such as what takes place with extractions, gingival repair, or root canals. This steps will depend on the condition of that individual pet’s mouth. To try to avoid having to perform these other procedures, or even just to reduce the number of dental cleaning that need to be done in a pet’s lifetime, veterinarians encourage owners to be active in prevention by developing the habit of giving care at home. A hair coat may look unkempt if it isn’t brushed, but a tooth that isn’t brushed or provided some care is going to have a lot more happen to it than just looking a little dirty. There are several aspects of home care that an owner can try. Simplified, these are: tooth brushing, the use of dental solutions or rinses, and finally, dental diets. The former is considered the “gold standard” of care; unfortunately, it is also the one that is least likely to be followed by a busy pet owner. However, with a determined or motivated owner, it is something that the majority of owners can successfully perform and have a meaningful impact on the pet’s health.

Our veterinary staff is always willing to help owners learn the tricks in getting their pets to cooperate, as they know that if the owner is successful, their patients will be healthier. When brushing isn’t an option, dental rinses may prove to be easier, and will offer some improved health, depending on the frequency performed. And last, but certainly not least of the home care steps, is use of dental diets. More than just being a hard kibble, these diets have incorporated advanced knowledge in dental disease prevention that work as the pet chews it food. These special diets are the most successful of all the home dental care steps, for they have the highest usage since every pet needs to eat everyday. When used as the only source of feeding, these diets have success rates of tartar and gingivitis reduction that exceeds 50 and sometimes 60%, which is pretty good for a pet who isn’t going to brush its own teeth every night before going to bed.

Consider participating in National Pet Dental Health Month. Make a commitment to performing some type of dental care for your pet, no matter how simple that care may be. Talk to your veterinarian about home care, or about the possible need to have professional care performed. The actions you take this February may give you and your pet many future Februaries together.

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