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De-bunking some dental health myths

De-bunking some dental health myths
0 6 September 2016

There are plenty of myths related to dental hygiene for pets. I thought I’d pick the five top myths that we hear regularly in our clinic, and dispel some of these misconceptions….


Myth no. 1    It is normal for my pet to have bad breath


In the same way that it is not normal for us to have bad breath, the same applies to our pets. The reason we must brush our own teeth daily is because there is a constant build up of plaque occurring on our teeth- a slime of bacteria and protein. If not brushed away this leads to an odour and periodontal disease. Bad breath in your pet doesn’t necessarily mean that dental disease is present, it may just indicate that a cleaning is required to scale away all the plaque build up and clear away all the smelly bacteria. The smell may not be related to teeth either- sometimes bad smells from the mouth can indicate gastrointestinal problems or other problems within the oral cavity. It is always best to get your pet checked out by your vet if you notice a bad smell from his or her breath


Myth no. 2   Bones are good for my pet’s teeth


Bones are the the most frequent cause of fractured and damaged teeth. Fractured teeth, especially when the inner pulp of the tooth is exposed, leads to alot of pain and sensitivity, and frequently requires affected teeth to be removed. Long-term bone chewing will wear down teeth, sometimes right to the gum line, and this certainly causes discomfort to the pet.

The other problem we frequently see from bones is ‘foreign bodies’. This is when the bone is ingested and gets stuck somewhere in the gastrointestinal tract- anywhere from the oesophagus to the rectum. Foreign body surgery can be lengthy and complicated, and there is the risk of infection after removal of the piece of bone. If it is a fragment of bone then this can cause more severe damage by puncturing the lining of the stomach or intestine, and causing a life-threatening condition called peritonitis. Less serious but more frequently seen in our clinic is where a piece of bone gets stuck behind the teeth or across the roof of the mouth. Although relatively easily removed under a touch of sedation, having a piece of bone stuck in the mouth can be traumatic for the pet and we usually see a bit of ulceration in the mouth which causes some pain and discomfort.



Myth no. 3    My pet can’t have dental disease, he is eating normally


We hear this so so frequently! Usually after showing a pet owner the condition of their pet’s teeth and indicating that they need a dental scale and polish. I understand this- it doesn’t seem right does it that a pet could have severe dental disease and yet show absolutely no sign of discomfort or change of eating habit? Yet pets have a very very strong survival instinct, and that is one which will rarely, if ever, allow them to stop eating or indicate dental pain in any way. One of the most memorable examples of this for me was a dog who actually had a fractured lower jaw due to an abscess in one of her lower teeth. She must have been in awful pain, not only did she have a terrible swollen and infected abscess and rotten tooth, but a very unstable jaw which would have prevented her from chewing properly. Yet she was eating away normally at home! We see the whole spectrum of dental disease- from mild plaque build up, to severe dental disease with gum recession, cracked teeth and infection- almost on a daily basis, and I cannot recall a single time an owner has reported to me that their pet has stopped eating as a result of this. The most rewarding part of treating dental disease is seeing a pet transform after having his or her mouth cleaned, treated and damaged teeth removed. Pet owners will often report that the pet is ‘like a puppy again’! Which is enough evidence for me that that pet was in pain before hand, just not showing it….


Myth no. 4     Dry food helps to keep my pet’s teeth clean


There is a wide range of pet foods available, varying in quality, digestability and their effect on the teeth. In general, there is no difference between wet or dry food for dental effect, with the exception of certain ‘dental diets’, which have been shown to have a brushing effect on the teeth to keep plaque at bay. For a comprehensive list of recommended dental products see The gold standard method for keeping your pet’s teeth clean is brushing daily, nothing compares to it for effectively removing plaque.


Myth no. 5    Human toothpaste is safe to use on my pet


Don’t ever be tempted to use human toothpaste for your pet. Fluoride and baking soda products are harmful to pets and toxic if ingested- remember your pet does not know how to spit and rinse! There are a range of different poultry and beef flavoured pet toothpastes available, which are safe if ingested and can make brushing much more enjoyable for your pet.

Posted in Uncategorized by Ennis Veterinary Clinic

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