Similar to people, pets can develop dental plaque and tartar buildup that lead to gingivitis and progress to serious damage and tooth loss. Without preventive care or professional dental treatment, bacteria build up, and erode the bones and tissues supporting the teeth. This condition is painful, and can diminish your pet’s quality of life. Our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of Richmond, Texas, team is well-equipped to handle all your pet’s dental needs, and we can recommend the right at-home preventive care protocol to keep their teeth cleaner and healthier.

Because of common myths and misconceptions, some pet owners are surprised that dental care is important for pets. Learn the truth about the most common pet dental health myths, and how to keep your pet’s mouth healthy.

Myth: Pet mouths are cleaner than human mouths

Truth: Many coexisting bacteria species—similar to skin and intestinal bacteria—populate your pet’s mouth—and your own. Bacteria can overgrow and start to cause infections around the gumline when plaque and tartar build up. Over time, the bacteria cause loose, painful teeth because bone and tissue deteriorate. The dental disease process is the same in pets and people, but because people brush, floss, and rinse each day, their mouths are generally cleaner than their pet’s. 

Myth: Kibble and other hard foods keep pet teeth clean

Truth: Your dog’s or cat’s oral health does not benefit from simply chewing kibble; they need a specially formulated dental diet containing teeth-cleaning enzymes. Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC)-approved dental diets, chews, rinses, sprays, and other products can help reduce plaque and tartar buildup, but must be used consistently to have a significant impact. Hard chews, such as bones, can actually break or wear down your pet’s teeth. The best way to keep your pet’s teeth clean is to brush them once or twice daily using a pet-safe toothpaste.

Myth: My groomer cleans my pet’s teeth every six weeks, which is sufficient

Truth: Groomers simply brush your dog’s or cat’s teeth with pet-safe toothpaste. While toothbrushing is vital to your pet’s oral health, you must continue to brush daily at home to ensure a positive effect. In addition, your veterinarian should routinely perform a professional dental cleaning to remove plaque and tartar above and below the gumline. To obtain X-rays and treat or remove diseased teeth during the procedure, your veterinarian will anesthetize your pet. 

Myth: Anesthesia is not necessary for a complete professional teeth cleaning

Truth: Although leading veterinary health organizations generally do not approve, some practitioners offer nonanesthetic dentistry. These services can be more effective than your groomer’s simple brushing, but far less effective than a cleaning under anesthesia. Nonanesthetic dentistry can stress your pet, as the instruments are sharp, uncomfortable, and make frightening, unfamiliar noises. In addition, nonanesthetic dental cleanings only treat visible tartar, and do not address plaque or disease below the gumline.

A complete professional dental cleaning requires anesthesia, so pets are relaxed and feel no pain. Anesthesia is necessary to facilitate X-rays, which are vital to evaluating tooth root and jawbone health. If your veterinarian discovers fractured, damaged, loose, or infected teeth during an anesthetized cleaning, they can remove them immediately. Diseased teeth must be treated right away to prevent neighboring teeth from becoming unhealthy, which often occurs after nonanesthetic dentistry cleaning.

Myth: My pet does not need a dental cleaning or X-rays until they are older

Truth: By 3 years of age, most pets have early dental disease, which can progress slowly, but in some cases, can progress quickly—over only a few months. Small breeds and pets with short noses develop dental issues at an earlier age and more severely than large breeds, but all pets have a dental disease risk. Your veterinarian should evaluate your pet’s teeth at least once per year to recommend appropriate pet-safe home-care dental products and advise you on whether your pet needs a professional cleaning.

Myth: Dental disease cannot affect my pet’s overall health

Truth: Bacteria in your pet’s mouth that infect deep tissues or bone can enter your dog’s or cat’s bloodstream and spread to vital organs, including their heart, kidneys, and liver. These infections cause permanent damage and can endanger or shorten your pet’s life. The best way to keep your pet healthy overall is to focus on their oral health—brush their teeth daily, use effective VOHC-approved oral health products, and follow your veterinarian’s recommended at-home and professional teeth cleaning schedule.

Ignore the myths. The truth is, your pet’s dental care is paramount to their overall health. To prevent your pet’s dental disease from worsening, call your veterinarian if your dog or cat has bad breath, yellow-brown tooth discoloration, or gumline redness. Our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of Richmond team can instruct you on providing your pet with proper in-home dental care, and recommend your dog’s or cat’s safe, anesthetized, complete dental cleaning. Call us to schedule your pet’s annual dental exam or to discuss pet-safe preventive dental care products or techniques.