Take a Big Bite Out of Dental Disease

For Pet Wellness Month, Dr. Ava Frick, renowned veterinarian, speaker, and founder of Pet Rehab & Pain Clinic, put together four tips on how to keep our pets healthy and happy. Over Pet Wellness Month we will be posting Dr. Frick’s tips and hope you enjoy her insights as much as we do! We are excited to hear your thoughts and hope you enjoy learning more about providing healthy lives for our pets.

#1: Take a Big Bite Out of Dental Disease

78 percent of dogs and 68 percent of cats over the age of 3 are diagnosed with some form of dental disease during their annual veterinary examination. There are three main reasons for early onset of dental plaque, calculus, and gingivitis.

The largest contributing factor to dental disease is they type of food they eat.  Dry, refined, processed, grain-laden foods are actually the culprit and not the solution to dental calculus. Metabolism begins in the mouth with a healthy amount of saliva and species dependent ‘proper chewing’ (which isn’t much for a dog). A system that maintains tissue phosphorus levels higher than tissue calcium will need to dump it somewhere, and the teeth are one of the easiest locations.

Secondly, a stressful lifestyle which constantly stimulates adrenal gland activity can stimulate dental disease by preventing saliva production and reducing gastric and digestive function. The third reason is a lack of regular oral cleaning.

The best time to introduce your pet to oral care is when it is young. A kitten or puppy will have less aversion to introducing a tooth brush, spray, or applicator when there is nothing hurting or to be worried about. There are many options available to best suit your pet’s dental hygiene needs; tooth paste and gels, oral sprays, foams, water additives, and a variety of chew treats lend something for even the most finicky pet. Many of the newer products focus on more natural and less chemically-derived ingredients.

Over 1,500 scientific studies support the natural antibacterial and antioxidant properties of green tea. Many link green tea extracts to specifically improving oral health; it is 30 times more potent than vitamin C as an antioxidant. Green tea extract contains catechins. Two of these have been shown to fight against oral plaque and bacteria, thus reducing bad breath. The anti-inflammatory properties of green tea protect against gingivitis, gum disease, and bleeding of the gums.

Baking soda is a simple and safe way to remove dental stains.  It can easily be combined with other dental care products. Parsley is another natural option to eliminate halitosis, help with reducing capillary fragility (oral bleeding) and is a good source of vitamin A, an important vitamin for epithelial cells, such as those that make up the surface of the mouth.

Taking a bite out of bad breath and dental disease has gotten easier and there are 6 steps you can take to keep on top of what’s happening in your pet’s mouth.

1. Start cleaning teeth at a young age. Get in the routine of at least 5 days a week.
2. Transition away from grain-based dry foods.
3. Reduce stressors in everyone’s daily life
4. To determine if your pet is likely to develop dental calculi in the future have a fur sample tested for corresponding tissue mineral levels.
5. Offer compatible dental chew treats between brushing.
6. Have a dental cleaning by your veterinary team and start with a new slate.
Taking these steps will also help to prevent bacteria invading other areas of your older pet’s body such as the heart valves, kidneys and lungs. A fresh clean mouth is the beginning of a healthy internal system.

Ava Frick, DVM, CAC
Pet Rehab & Pain Clinic
Chesterfield, MO