Maintaining Oral Health
Providing regular dental care for your dog is another aspect of proper grooming. Plaque, a composite of saliva, bits of food, and bacteria, sticks to canine teeth. The buildup hardens into tartar and causes swollen and receding gums and spaces for debris to accumulate.
Is it okay to use a human toothbrush and toothpaste?
No. Use a dental brush and paste that's made specifically for dogs. A canine brush has two or three sides to reach the upper and lower teeth. For puppies, use a small rubber brush that slides over your finger. The paste doesn't need rinsing.
When you brush your dog's teeth, you brush away the debris that would otherwise cause gum disease. You'll prevent pain, infection, and obnoxious bad breath. Remember, prevention is the cornerstone of holistic veterinary care.
Experts agree that the best defense against periodontal disease is to provide daily oral hygiene. But if you've never brushed your pet's teeth before, take him to your veterinarian for an oral evaluation and professional cleaning before you start brushing his teeth. Brushing alone won't remove a heavy tartar buildup.
Teeth need to be brushed once a day. Plaque builds up after every meal and although brushing alone won't remove all of the tartar, it certainly helps. You may need to train your dog to like having her teeth brushed, but once she gets the hang of it she'll actually look excited whenever she sees the brush come out.
If your dog is a chewer, get in the habit of giving her Nylabones, hard rubber toys, or raw bones to chew on throughout her life. Besides giving her something acceptable to chew, these help scrape the tartar off her teeth. Never give your dog cooked bones; these can splinter.
Work slowly to get your dog accustomed to having her teeth brushed. Put some enzyme-based canine toothpaste on your finger and let her lick it off. It's flavored so she'll like the taste of it. Next apply the paste to the brush, and gently lift your dog's lip. Holding the brush to the dog's teeth at a 45-degree angle, insert the brush into your dog's mouth and brush the front teeth. Brush the side teeth and finally the back molars, which are the most important. It's perfectly fine if it takes you a few sessions to work up to brushing your dog's entire mouth.
Despite your best brushing efforts, your dog will still need to have his teeth professionally cleaned by a veterinarian. There are areas of the teeth that brushing simply can't reach. Although a groomer can remove the tartar by hand-scaling, it's difficult to go below the gum line and reach a diseased area without anesthesia.
How often your dog needs a professional cleaning really depends on your dog's age and the size of his teeth. If the teeth are neglected when a dog is young, he's going to need deep-cleaning within a few years. Small dogs usually have small teeth that are crammed together, creating more spaces for food to become trapped and decay to set in. Your veterinarian will examine your dog's mouth and advise you.
During a professional cleaning your veterinarian will anesthetize your dog and use a hand-scraper or an ultrasonic cleaner to reach those areas of your dog's mouth that regular brushing cannot. Many holistic veterinarians acknowledge that new types of anesthesia and improved monitoring devices make this procedure much safer than it once was.