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What Regular Dental Care Does Your Dog Need?

Pets need a lot of the same regular dental care that people do, with one addition. They need:

  • Daily brushings
  • Quality food
  • Regular oral X-rays, exams, and cleanings
  • Safe teeth-cleaning chew toys or treats

The main reason pets get gum disease so often is because most don't have their teeth brushed daily. Yet brushing your dog's teeth daily is the best way to prevent the buildup and progression of plaque.

Surprisingly, when approached with patience and gentleness, most dogs (and cats), even older ones, can be persuaded to allow regular brushings. Yet statistics show that less than 1% of pet owners commit to brushing their pet’s teeth regularly.

That's why "the best alternative is less labor-intensive home care," says Beckman, "combined with cleaning periodically at a veterinary hospital."

What Happens During Your Dog's Dental Visit?

When you take your dog in for their annual dental exam and cleaning, one of the first things your vet will probably do is look inside the mouth.

The vet will check for odor (one sign of gum disease), and for red, swollen, or bleeding gums. The vet will also look for discolored, broken, or missing teeth, as well as gum recession.

"These are all things we look for when the dog is awake," says Sharon Hoffman, DVM, DAVDC, a veterinary dentist in Jacksonville, Fla., "but periodontal disease hides below the gum line, where you can't see it."

That's why, to be effective, a full exam and cleaning must be done under general anesthesia. It's then that the veterinarian can check your dog's mouth for periodontal pockets around the teeth, check all surfaces of the 42 teeth, and perform X-rays, which are vital to diagnosing periodontal disease below the gum line.

An oral exam will also include an evaluation for malocclusions (when a tooth is touching another tooth, or touching soft tissue or the palate). It also involves checking the tonsils, tongue, under the tongue, lip margins and cheek tissue. Your vet will also feel for problems with your dog's jaw, TMJ joint, and for enlargements or swollen lymph nodes.

Finally, a chart will be created, findings recorded, and decisions made: A cleaning and polish only? Or are there some areas that need further attention?

How to Brush a Dog's Teeth

See techniques and tips for brushing your dog's teeth – the easy way.
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