First of all, what is dental hygiene? Dental hygiene is a set of practices that eliminate plaque that naturally and permanently forms on the surface of teeth. It is an important part of the healthy lifestyle of humans, why would it be different for our cats and our dogs? There are many things in common between animal and human dental health.
Why is it so important?
Just like in humans, the animal will also have an accumulation of dental plaque on the teeth. This dental plaque is the result of the superposition of several bacteria that attach to the teeth, but also between them. There are approximately 100,000,000,000 bacteria per gram of plaque! After 24 to 48 hours, the plaque becomes mineralized and forms what is known as tartar. Once the tartar is hardened, even brushing of teeth cannot remove it, it will be necessary to pass under the curette and the ultrasonic scaler of the vet!
But why should this accumulation be prevented? The accumulation of plaque and tartar irritates the gums and causes inflammation. In other words, there will be the presence of gingivitis. Gingivitis is often the first stage of periodontal disease. This disease is, in fact, an imbalance between the bacterial flora and the immune system. It is an attack of the periodontium, which includes all the tissues that support the tooth from the gum to the alveolar bone. The bad bacteria will destroy the tissue by interfering between the tooth and the gum until reaching the root of the tooth. It is at this point that the damage is irreversible and often the tooth will have to be torn off to no longer cause pain to the animal. Bad bacteria can also enter the bloodstream and cause problems for other organs such as the heart, lungs and reproductive organs.
What should I use for my pet’s dental health?
You can use several means for the dental hygiene of your pet. There are two main categories: acute care and passive care. Active care will actively remove the plaque on the teeth with an owner’s action (brushing teeth, antiseptic rinse and products preventing plaque buildup). While passive care is based on the mechanical action of chewing the animal (food and dental treats). In general, active care is more effective on the incisors and canines while passive care is more effective on the premolars and molars.
Using several different means is important to improve your pet’s dental health. Despite all the possibilities available, brushing your teeth every day is the best way. Several products are available on the market, but some are ineffective and sometimes they are not safe for your pet. If in doubt, do not hesitate to consult your veterinarian!
Niemiec, Brook A. (2013) Veterinary Periodontology. John Wiley & Sons, 372p.
Harvey C, Serfilippi L, Barnvos D. Effect of Frequency of Brushing Teeth on Plaque and Calculus Accumulation, and Gingivitis in Dogs. J Vet Dent. 2015 Spring;32(1):16-21.
Kinane DF, Stathopoulou PG, Papapanou PN. Periodontal diseases. Nat Rev Dis Primers. 2017 Jun 22;3:17038.