By Jocelyn Husch, AHT
With the beginning of the New Year brings around the time of year that most clinics tend to focus on dental health education of their furry clients. February is typically considered Dental month, and clinics across the country focus their teaching towards the importance of oral health. One aspect of oral health that is often discussed and demonstrated at length is how to brush your pet’s teeth. Although this habit hasn’t always been seen as important the more we learn and grow in the pet health field, the more we see how big of an impact it can play.
Just think, our dentists typically recommend brushing our teeth on a regular basis (1-3 times daily depending on your routine), and then on top of that ideally we should have a cleaning done every 6-12 months. Now, put into perspective, our pets still use their teeth just as often, but typically we do not brush their teeth and they are lucky to have a cleaning done maybe once or twice (the old norm) in their life, if issues don’t arise before then. If brushing their teeth can help prolong their life why not do it?
The younger they are when you start the better, but it is never too late to introduce. Starting to brush teeth is something that will require patience when you start. Before even introducing a toothbrush I often recommend slowly introducing your pet to the process.
First, start off with getting them comfortable with you approaching their mouth, lifting their lip and generally just being in that area. Then, slowly introduce a soft item to the gums (I usually mention either a gauze or Q-tip), just so that your pet gets use to the feeling of something touching their gums. This process could take a couple of weeks; I often mention 6 weeks as a ballpark idea. Once you feel that your pet is adequately comfortable with these steps, you will want to make sure you have the right supplies on hand:
a) Pet toothpaste. The human version contains fluoride which your pet shouldn’t swallow. Pet toothpastes also come in flavours that will be rewarding to your pet (ex. Chicken or beef).
b) A toothbrush. One with bristles is better than a plastic finger brush. The bristles themselves are what will gently clean slightly under the gum line where you can’t see.
When actually brushing your pet’s teeth you will want to first apply the toothpaste onto the toothbrush. In my mind the toothpaste is more of treat/reward for your pet and if you are more successful without it in the long run. Don’t worry if your pet gets it off the brush before you even start. You can approach your pet’s mouth from either head on or from behind; I have had the most success from behind, as your pet is unable to back away from you in this position.. The toothbrush bristles should be focused on the gum line and gentle circular motion is used to clean the area. The primary focus should be on the outsides of the teeth. Please do not feel obligated to “fight” with your pet to clean the inside of the teeth (if they will allow it great, but not necessary) as the tongue does a lot of work for us. We want the experience to be positive for both of you. The gold standard on frequency would be brushing daily, but if it can be done 4-5times a week would be better than not doing it.
We invite you to contact the clinic for an appointment with a technician if you would like a demo!