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Veterinary tips for pet dental care

In honor of National Dental Health Month, Bethany Wright, licensed veterinary technician with Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine’s dentistry and oral surgery, provides some suggestions to set you and your pets up for a bright smile.

Wright says:

“Human dentists recommend brushing regularly to maintain a healthy oral cavity, and that is what your pet’s dental professionals recommend too. Plaque builds up on teeth within 12 hours of cleaning, therefore brushing your pet’s teeth at least once daily, for just 60 seconds, is the best and most effective method to decrease bacteria in the mouth.

“Start by gently petting the muzzle of your pet and praise them for accepting. Once your pet is comfortable with this, can vary from a few days to a week, lift the lip to start rubbing your finger along the gums. Feel free to use the toothpaste or peanut butter, whatever is their favorite, to encourage acceptance. Work up to the toothbrush, with or without the toothpaste, and brush just the outsides of the teeth facing the lips and cheeks using a circular motion to also include the gums for a minimum of 60 seconds daily. Choose a time in your schedule that works best for you and your pet. A common one is when you brush your own teeth, do theirs before or after. This scheduled time allows everyone to succeed. Finally, congratulate yourself on a job well done and don’t forget to praise your furry friend too!

“If your pet is not cooperative or it is unsafe to get near their mouth, there are prescription dental diets that have been designed to reduce the plaque and tartar on teeth and gums. It is important that you discuss these diets with your veterinarian before starting them, as they can have the best recommendation based on your pet’s needs.” 

What you will need:

  • Pet specific toothbrush or a child’s small head, soft bristled toothbrush
  • Pet specific toothpaste (optional, must be specifically for pets)
  • Patience and perseverance