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Why You Should Care About Your Pet’s Dental Care

The dental proverb, “Be true to your teeth or they will be false to you,” is true not only for humans, but for pets as well. Unfortunately, false teeth for dogs and cats aren’t yet an option. That’s just one of the reasons proper dental care is important for your dog or cat. Pets need strong, healthy teeth for chewing, grooming and enjoying daily activities like fetching a stick or picking up a ball.
And, even more important to note, pets need good teeth because dental disease, left untreated, can be life threatening. Bacteria from tooth decay and gum disease can work their way into your pet’s bloodstream and produce infection in the heart, lungs, and other parts of the body.

Professional Teeth Cleaning

Pets prone to calculus build up may need professional teeth cleaning every 6-12 months. Other pets may require it every 3-4 years.
Complete dentistry is performed under general anesthesia. To ensure safety, we perform pre-anesthesia bloodwork, X-rays, and EKG. We ultrasonically scrape the plaque and tartar from your pet’s teeth- above and below the gum line. We X ray the teeth looking for evidence of root disease. Periodontal “pockets” may be filled with a antibiotic gel that helps heal the gum back to the bone. Extracting loose teeth is important in advanced periodontal disease. A bone implant, “Consil” may be used to fill the empty socket before suturing the gums closed.
Then we polish your pet’s teeth. This will smooth tooth surfaces. If not smoothed out, rough surfaces can act as a collecting site for future plaque and tartar. Fluoride is then applied to strengthen the enamel.

Dental Home Care

After the dentistry, we recheck and demonstrate techniques for maintenance of a clean, healthy, fresh mouth. These include regular brushing with C.E.T. products and the use of Oravet dental gel, together with a trail sample of Purina DH dental diet. Don’t forget to check out this demonstration video.

How Dental Disease Develops

Veterinarians estimate that 85-90 percent of all dogs and cats more than six years old suffer from some tooth and gum disease. Just like in humans, deposits of plaque build up on their teeth.

Bad Breath

Plaque is an accumulation of old cells, saliva and bacteria creating a biofilm.  Left on teeth, plaque hardens and turns into tartar, which can cause the gums to become inflamed (gingivitis) and break down ligaments that connect teeth with bone and gum tissue (periodontitis). Bad breath is a noticeable side effect of the constant bacterial activity.  It is accompanied by gingivitis – an infection of the gums with redness and swelling.  This may progress to periodontal disease of the bone around the tooth roots.

Keeping Your Pet’s Smile Bright

The key to preventing such problems is to practice good pet dental hygiene, or “home care”. First and foremost, you should attempt regularly to brush your pet’s teeth. Several veterinary brands of toothpaste or dental rinses are available. We recommend CET dental product including toothpaste, finger brushes, oral rinse, and oral hygiene chews for dogs and cats. Start early! A puppy or kitten can be easily taught to accept routine home dental care. But, you can start at any age.

  • Twice weekly brushing is helpful. Use a soft tooth brush or a gauze pad or an oral care product made for pets. Gently massage the dentifrice onto the teeth, particularly the canine grouping of teeth at the front of the mouth, and then the carnassial teeth exposed by lifting the lips at the back of the mouth.

  • The mechanical action of prescription Dental formula diet helps to prevent the accumulation of plaque and tartar. The same is true of rawhide, biscuits and hard nylon chew toys.

  • Regular Veterinary physical exams are a key part of the prevention program. Early detection of periodontal disease is important.


Cats may prove resistant to regular dental home care. It is certainly important not to be bitten during the attempt. Fortunately, cat’s tartar is relatively easy to break off the teeth during their yearly office visit. Cats that allow Dr. Cummins to clean their teeth in this way each year are much less likely to loose their teeth as they get older.

Cats and Gingivitis/Stomatitis Complex, & Feline Resorptive Lesions

Unfortunately, a minority of cats seem genetically predisposed to develop unhealthy teeth and gums. Starting as early as 1 year of age, their entire gum line may become painfully inflamed, progressing to involve the entire back of their mouth. Other cats have very brittle teeth from an early age, and go on to develop painful cavity- like resorptive lesions. The cure for both these conditions involves extracting all the affected teeth under general anesthesia. When, for any reason, it is impractical to do this, Therapeutic laser helps alleviate the pain. (See Therapeutic Laser)