Swan Valley Veterinary Clinic

Box 388
Swan River, MB R0L 1Z0




 Out of all family members, who has the worst dental hygiene?  The pets!  This is no surprise as they do not brush or floss their teeth regularly.  If you wonder what happens to teeth without regular brushing (or you want to show your children what will become of their teeth if they do not brush regularly), look at your pets teeth and smell their breath.


 person holding orange cat

Maintaining oral health is important because it:

Reduces bad breath

Reduces pain due to inflammation, bone loss, and tooth mobility

Reduces bacteria in bloodstream

Improves quality of life for both pets and owners

Leads to longer lifespan of pets


Stages of dental disease:

 1.  Teeth are coated with saliva which contains bacteria.  This forms a slimy coating called plaque.

 2.  Plaque forms in as little as 6-8 hours.  Plaque hardens to form calculus in 3 to 5 days.

 3.  Calculus blocks air from getting to the surface of the tooth so different bacteria begin to live there.  This causes gingivitis which is redness and inflammation of the gums.  Gingivitis can be painful. Bacteria can move through the gums into the bloodstream where they can set up infection in organs throughout the body.

 4.  Bacteria destroy gum tissue leading to recession of gums and pocket formation.  The bacteria also eat away at ligaments and bone resulting in loss of structures that hold teeth in place.  At this stage, teeth begin to move, causing more pain and discomfort.  Once teeth are mobile, they need to be removed. 




Golden Retriever with toy



Management of dental disease:

 Oral health in pets is managed with regular comprehensive oral health assessment and treatments done by a veterinarian and appropriate homecare.

 Dental examination is an important part of annual physical exam.  An exam involves looking at the mouth, tongue, teeth, plaque, calculus, and gums.  It is often difficult to get complete exam when the animal is awake.

 Comprehensive oral health assessment and treatment involves general anesthetic so the mouth can be thoroughly examined.  Calculus and plaque are removed with hand tools and ultrasonic scaler.  Gums are inspected and pockets are measured.  Sometimes x-rays are taken to look for disease under the gum line.  Loose teeth or teeth with exposed roots may be removed.  Remaining teeth are polished so they have a smooth surface.  Often antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication are given and sent home after the procedure.

 The golden standard of homecare is DAILY BRUSHING.  This requires a cooperative pet and a very committed owner as it is time consuming and can be frustrating.  

 Other things you can do at home to promote oral health:       


Dental Treats  

Chewing on proper dental chews can reduce plaque.  This is not as good as brushing, but certainly better than nothing.  There are many products available but not all chews are alike.  Chews rub against tooth which removes plaque and tartar.  Some chews have special ingredients which help prevent plaque turn into tartar.  The Veterinary Oral Health Council is a group that awards seal of approval to treats and diets showing scientific evidence of plaque and tartar reduction.  Look for the VOHC seal of approval when buying treats.  Tartar Shield soft rawhide chews are great for large and small dogs.  

Dental Diets

There are many dental diets on the market.  Some work better than others.  Large kibbles force chewing and designed so pieces do not shatter.  Kibble rubs against teeth and plaque is removed.  The Hills t/d diet is clinically proven to decrease plaque, stain, and tartar build up.  It has the VOHC seal of approval. A sample bag of this food is sent home when comprehensive oral health assessment and treatment is done.  

 Improved dental health leads to increased quality of life for your pet.  Work with your Veterinarian to come up with an appropriate plan to improve and maintain the oral health of your pets.  

 For a list of VOHC approved products and more information regarding dental health, visit www.vohc.org.


Check out these great websites for more information on companion animal dentistry: