Did you know that keeping your pet’s mouth squeaky clean is a vital part of their overall health? Dental disease—one of the most common conditions in our pet population—not only causes unpleasant breath but can also lead to pain, infection, and heart problems. Staying on top of your pet’s oral health is a top priority, but what do you need to do? Here are six tips from Bassler Veterinary Hospital that will improve your pet’s dental health today.

#1: Lift your pet’s lip

A simple way to monitor your pet’s teeth is to check them frequently—simply lift their lip to look for signs of plaque (i.e., light-colored film), tartar (i.e., tan to darker brown calculus), or gingivitis (i.e., redness or bleeding at the gum line). In early dental disease, these abnormalities will manifest near the gumline and work their way toward the tooth crown as disease progresses. The canine tooth or “fang” is the easiest to monitor, but checking further back in the mouth, where disease often hides, is also essential. You can do this by lifting the lip and gently sliding your finger along the side of your pet’s lip to reveal harder-to-see premolars and molars. With cats, placing gentle pressure at the corners of the mouth, encouraging them to open their jaw, is easiest. If your pet isn’t keen on oral examinations, you may have to check quickly or, better yet, leave it to the professionals. 

#2: Schedule a dental consultation for your pet

If you’re concerned about your pet’s oral health, or their annual examination is due, our veterinary team is more than qualified. We will perform a thorough examination of your pet, assessing the oral cavity, teeth, and gums, along with all other body systems. We can do this on an outpatient basis, but occasionally pets require safe anesthesia for a thorough oral examination.

#3: Make an appointment for regular dental cleanings and oral assessments for your pet

Like people, our pets greatly benefit from professional dental cleanings, which involve safe anesthesia, scaling, polishing, fluoride, and full-mouth X-rays. We also treat any diseased areas or loose teeth. For most pets, cleanings should be scheduled annually, but this may vary depending on breed, size, and the pet’s susceptibility to dental disease. Our veterinary team will work with you to determine the best interval for your furry friend.  

#4: Choose an appropriate dental hygiene regimen for your pet

While professional cleanings are a must for pet dental health, your role at home is equally important. Under the guidance of your Bassler Veterinary Hospital veterinary team, choose an at-home oral hygiene routine that best suits you and your pet. Ideally, this would involve brushing your pet’s teeth to keep plaque and tartar at bay, but other options, including water additives, prescription dental diets, and treats are available. 

#5: Stick to a beneficial schedule for your pet at home

Having the groomer brush your pet’s teeth is not recommended and is simply not enough to combat plaque and tartar. Rather, aim for at-home toothbrushing sessions at least three times a week to keep your pet’s teeth clean and disease-free. 

#6: Start your pet’s dental regimen early

One of the biggest pearls of wisdom regarding pet dental care is to start the routine early in life. This may sound counterintuitive, since most puppies and kittens don’t suffer from dental disease until around age 3. However, instituting an oral hygiene regimen early on will help your pet become accustomed to the sensations involved with a toothbrushing routine. Gradually acclimating your pet to the toothbrush, veterinary-approved toothpaste, and the toothbrushing sensation are key. Take your time and remember to always reward your pet appropriately throughout the learning process. 

Now that you have the tools to help keep your pet’s mouth clean and disease-free, it’s time to implement them. If you come across any problems, need tips, or have questions about your pet’s oral care, at Bassler Veterinary Hospital, we’re here to help.