Here is some information about dental care for your pet. I'm starting with the many reasons to have a dental cleaning done...
Cleaning your pet’s teeth involves removing all the tartar and then polishing them so that they will be pretty and white just like after you go to the dentist.
The tartar and plaque on your pet’s teeth is a major contributor to the "dog breath" syndrome. Having the teeth cleaned will improve your pet’s breath so you won’t mind as much when they give you kisses!
Pets get dental disease just like we would if we never or rarely brushed our teeth. They can get reddened, inflamed gums (gingivitis) and loose or painful teeth just like we do. However, because pets cannot tell us that they have a toothache and may naturally tend to hide their pain so we may not realize that they are suffering. Regular dental care at home and cleaning by your veterinarian can prevent and relieve the mouth pain that many older pets are suffering from. Many owners have just assumed that their pet was "getting older" because they were eating less and sleeping more only to find that a dental cleaning by their vet returned their pet to an active happy lifestyle. You can imagine you would not want to eat or play either if you had a chronic toothache!
When your pet’s gums are inflamed and red the blood vessels come closer to the surface of the gum. This is important because the tartar you see on your pet’s teeth is 30-70% bacteria by weight and every time the pet eats or chews some of that bacteria can break off and get absorbed into the bloodstream. The bacteria can then go to any organ of the body (like the kidneys or heart) and cause disease. The damage is done slowly and builds up over the pet’s lifetime so that we may not see any signs until later in life when it is too late. As a result keeping your pets teeth clean is a way to help them live a longer more enjoyable life.
So, now that you have decided to schedule a dental cleaning it's important to realize that not all dentals are created equal. Be sure to ask what all is included when you schedule your pet's appointment. You will want to make sure that the teeth are cleaned above and below the gumline in order to make sure all plaque and bacteria are removed. It's also important to polish the teeth after the cleaning is finished. A quality dental cleaning will also include probing all the periodontal pockets to make sure there are no hidden pockets where the gum is not adequately attached to the tooth. Deep pockets need to be addressed and may even mean the tooth needs to be pulled. Dental radiographs are also becoming more commonly available. There can be a lot of dental pathology that can only be picked up radiographically so having these done can really help your pet's mouth stay healthy. And as with any anesthetic procedure make sure your veterinarian is using quality gas anesthesia and appropriate monitoring, as well as pain meds if there are extractions or oral surgeries performed.
Once you have had your pet's teeth cleaned, or before they reach the point of needing cleaned home care is important. There are many products and foods than can help reduce the build up of tartar and plaque but the gold standard is daily brushing. It may take time to teach your pet to accept brushing but don't give up. It will be much better for your pet to have quality home dental care in between professional cleanings. Happy brushing everyone!