February 03, 2016 Dentistry

New Research Helps to Keep Your Pet’s Teeth Healthy

A dog holding a toothbrush in its mouth

New Research Helps to Keep Your Pet’s Teeth Healthy

February is National Pet Dental Health Month. Tooth and gum disease is commonly diagnosed in dogs and cats. During routine veterinary examinations, dental tartar was the second most common problem identified; the number one problem is obesity. Last year we highlighted common dental problems in our photo blog for National Pet Dental Health Month 2015. For this year’s celebration, I have translated recent veterinary dental research into action steps for pet families.

Daily Brushing IS Important

Veterinary dentists studied tooth brushing with an American Dental Association approved soft toothbrush. Over 100 dogs were included in the study, and the frequency of brushing was different in the various groups. Some groups of dogs’ teeth were not brushed; others were brushed daily, every other day, weekly or every other week. Before brushing started, all dogs had dental examinations to assess the accumulation of plaque, tartar and the presence of gingivitis. All dogs were fed a dry kibble to minimize the effect of diet on the accumulation of plaque, tartar and development of gingivitis. At the end of a month of brushing, the dogs underwent a second round of dental examinations.  The results contained no surprises. Just like your dentist tells you, daily brushing resulted in cleaner, healthier teeth and gums. For those readers not currently brushing their pet’s teeth, here is a link to a video on tooth brushing.

Cat Teeth are Not the Same as Human Teeth

Reports indicate as many as 14% of cats seen by primary care veterinarians suffer from periodontal disease. Although daily brushing prevents dental diseases, the similarities between our teeth and our pet’s teeth may not extend to the causes of periodontal disease. DNA analysis of feline oral bacteria found the type of bacteria changes as gingivitis becomes periodontal disease. The types of oral bacteria identified in cats were very similar to canine oral bacteria, but dissimilar to human oral bacteria. The differences between pets and people may in part be dietary, as human diets are very sugary compared to that of dogs and cats. This data also indicates treatments for human periodontal disease are not likely to translate into effective therapies for our pets and further research will be needed to develop specific dog and cat drugs to improve oral health.

Dog Toothpaste Works

Since the types of oral bacteria in people and pets are different, you are probably thinking human toothpaste would not be appropriate for pets and you would be right! Human toothpaste should not be used in dogs and cats. Think about it. You brush and spit. Dogs and cats brush and swallow. Toothpaste is not designed to be swallowed and should not be used in pets.
This third important study evaluated the use of an anti-plaque gel in dogs. The gel is approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) and contains no pharmaceutical chemicals, alcohol, xylitol, artificial or synthetic ingredients.  Results of brushing dogs’ teeth with the gel were compared to the results of just brushing or no brushing at all. The results showed tooth brushing with the gel was superior in reducing plaque and gingivitis compared to brushing alone or no brushing at all. To help you choose effective oral products for your pet, here is the list of products accepted by the VOHC.

Key Facts

  • Daily brushing with a soft toothbrush is best.
  • Brushing combined with pet toothpaste improves dental health.
  • Human dental products are not appropriate for your pets. Check with your veterinarian about safe oral hygiene products for your pets.

Thanks to the AMC’s Dentistry team: Dr. Stephen RibackDr. Dan Carmichael and Dr. Django Martel for their help with this blog.