It is a common misconception that pets do not require routine dental care. But, your pet’s teeth are similar to yours, and they also need regular dental care, including daily toothbrushing and professional cleanings, to prevent dental disease. Unfortunately, many other myths exist regarding pet dental care, which means that pets often receive inadequate care, and develop painful dental problems. Our All Pets Medical Center team is here to bust the most common myths surrounding pet dental health. Check them out to see which you have heard, and possibly believed.

Myth: Dental disease is uncommon in pets

Fact: Dental disease is the most common medical condition to affect dogs and cats. In fact, 85% of pets who do not receive regular dental care will develop dental disease by age 3. Unfortunately, many pets go their entire life without proper dental care, and suffer chronic dental problems for years. 

Oral bacteria leave a sticky film called plaque on your pet’s teeth, which mineralizes to cement-like tartar in 24 hours if not brushed off. Over time, tartar accumulates on your pet’s teeth, making them appear dirty, but the plaque and tartar that travel below your pet’s gumline cause the most damage. Subgingival plaque and tartar infiltrate the periodontal ligament that holds each tooth in its bony socket, causing tooth loosening, root decay, infection, and eventual tooth loss. Bacteria associated with dental tartar can also spread through the bloodstream to affect your pet’s kidneys, heart, and other organs.

Myth: My pet’s teeth do not need brushing

Fact: Brushing is the only way to remove plaque from your pet’s teeth before it hardens to tartar, which can be removed only with specialized instruments during a professional dental cleaning. Although people assumed for years that pets did not need regular toothbrushing, we now know better, and understand that daily brushing is the basis of good dental health. Most pets accept toothbrushing surprisingly well, especially when sessions are paired with a tasty treat. Using a finger brush and veterinary-approved toothpaste, start by allowing your pet to lick the paste from your finger, and then rub your finger on the outside of their teeth. Gradually work up to brushing the outer surface of your pet’s teeth daily. 

Myth: My pet’s bad breath is normal

Fact: Although your pet is unlikely to have minty fresh breath, stinky breath is never normal, and is a sign of dental disease. Other dental disease signs include: 

  • Yellow or brown tartar accumulation
  • Decreased appetite
  • Chewing on one side of the mouth only
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Shying away from facial contact
  • Red or bleeding gums
  • Loose teeth
If your pet has bad breath or other dental disease signs, schedule a dental evaluation with our team. We will let you know if a professional dental cleaning is in order. During a veterinary dental cleaning, we remove the tartar from your pet’s teeth, which we then polish to smooth out microscopic ridges created by the dental instruments that can attract bacteria and plaque. If diseased teeth are identified, extractions may be recommended. 

Myth: My pet is still eating, so their teeth must be fine

Truth: Pets are masters at hiding illness and discomfort, and the instinct to survive often overrides a pet’s desire to seek help, despite their safe environment. Many pets in pain continue to eat with periodontal disease, tooth root infections, and loose teeth, adapting by no longer chewing, and swallowing their food whole. Unfortunately, eating is an unreliable indicator of your pet’s dental health. 

Myth: Anesthesia-free dental cleanings are safer for pets

Truth: You may be hesitant about your pet undergoing anesthesia, but a safe, complete dental cleaning can be accomplished only on an anesthetized pet. Anesthesia-free cleanings remove tartar from the above the gumline only, and do not address tartar below the gumline, which is the real problem. Restraining pets while poking and prodding their mouth with metal instruments causes extreme anxiety, and few pets will remain still enough for our team to accomplish much tartar removal. In addition, taking dental X-rays would be impossible without anesthesia, because pets must remain completely still. Dental X-rays are an invaluable part of your pet’s dental evaluation, as they allow us to completely evaluate each tooth from crown to root, including the 60% that is buried below the gumline. Many problems, such as tooth fractures, root infections, and bone loss, would be missed without dental X-rays. 

Your pet’s safety is our top priority before, during, and after anesthesia. We perform a thorough preanesthetic exam and blood work, tailor an anesthetic protocol specifically for your pet, and monitor them carefully throughout the procedure. Our skilled veterinary technicians remain by your pet’s side to detect any alterations in heart rate, breathing, or blood pressure, and correct them before they can become a problem. They also stay with your pet through their recovery to ensure they awaken relaxed and comfortable. Our safe practices allow pets of all ages to benefit from dental care, including senior pets.

If you are still unsure whether your pet has dental disease, or they need a professional cleaning, contact us to set up a dental evaluation. We love helping pets live their healthiest lives by providing excellent dental care.