1. Good home care:
-Head Handling: Start by getting your pet used to head handling and opening up the lips to touch the teeth. Especially in cats you must be very slow and gradual so the pet learns not to fear this and for you to get competent at it.
-Hand descaling: then gradually get your pet used to having them scratched with a fingernail. If you can do this then you can scratch off any brown tartar or calculus and even tan plaque that develops. You should do this weekly for training purposes, and to see early signs of build up on normally bone white teeth. Once you get real good at this, you may find you could use a small spoon or nail groomer as an instrument for the scratching of brown build up that doesn’t come off with your finger nail. You need to use a lot of caution with this method, because if the pet is not well trained and quiet you could slip and cut a gum.
–Brushing: for committed owners you could brush the teeth once or twice daily by inserting a pet tooth brush with pet toothpaste under the upper lips and gently stroking the teeth back and forth and in a circular fashion – the links below show a video on how to do this. You need to brush often and thoroughly though to prevent plaque turning into tartar. Once it is tartar you need to scrape as above.
–Chew Toys: For dogs you can’t really give them too much to chew on if it is chewable. Avoid hard chew toys and bones because they can, and do, often break or wear the teeth. Slab fractures of the upper fourth premolar is a common occurrence. Unfortunately small dogs are often not much interested in chew toys. Try to lure them into chewing by cutting them up into small strips and possibly putting more flavors in them; soaking them in soups(?), drilling holes in them and packing them with cheese(?). As a general rule ‘dogs that chew don’t have much dental problems’ unless they break a tooth.
–Dental diets are available. There are several veterinarian lines with different actions and formulations, and there are now some dental targeted diets in pet food stores. Generally you want a larger kibble with a non-brittle texture so that animals are forced to chew the food and the tooth is rubbed by the kibble before it breaks open. The rubbing action helps prevent gingivitis too in some diets. Some diets aid in the prevention of tartar by preventing calcium from mineralizing plaque into tartar.
–Dental Products: There are different dental products available to help with gingivitis, exposed nerves, halitosis and plaque development. Some are oral sprays, pastes and some you can add to drinking water.
2. In Hospital Hand Descales – in cats in particular it is often possible for us to use dental instruments without any anesthesia to clean off early tartar formation. Cats often will ‘freeze’ and allow us to lift their lips to scratch off tartar formation. They will freeze, struggle to flee or fight. If they do either of the latter then we need to schedule a dental cleaning under anesthesia. The vast majority however freeze and they learn to accept this procedure routinely without a problem.
-This procedure is not dentistry. It is a cosmetic scaling without polishing. Some argue this is inappropriate and may leave micro-excoriations or grooves in the enamel, making the teeth more prone to plaque and tartar attachment. This has been shown not to be the case as the enamel is strong, they don’t live to 80 like we do and we have noted that a descale in a cat can last 1 or 2 years or more before they need another. It was initially thought it would be a good idea to do this every 6 months, but most cats don’t need it. This has almost no risk compared to the risk of anesthesia, and it is very cost effective for clients compared to a dentistry.
-this is not very appropriate for dogs however, unless the dog is very tolerant and well trained, because dogs are bigger, stronger and tend to struggle as a rule instead of freeze.
Specifics of this program could only be exposed under the client only section of this website, due to professional regulation which requires a proper veterinary-client-patient relationship.