Daily Brushing?

Yes! It prevents dental disease and lengthens your dog's life.

By Susan H. Bertram, DVM | Posted: Mon Feb 3 00:00:00 PST 2003

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Dr. Lobprise concurred: "Hand-scaling makes a pretty crown, and that's about it."

Advances in detecting and treating periodontal disease include the availability of smaller tips for ultrasonic dental equipment to improve cleaning of deep periodontal pockets and a long-acting tetracycline gel that can be infused into periodontal pockets to eliminate infection and restore gum attachment. Dental radiographs, or X-rays, are emerging as one of the most important tools in fighting periodontal disease. Research results published in June 1998 by Dr. Verstraete and his colleagues showed that dental X-rays can detect hidden periodontal problems and tooth abscesses in veterinary patients that would otherwise be missed.

Don't feel helpless if you dog refuses to accept tooth-brushing, despite your patient efforts to retrain it. Other options, while not as effective as brushing, can still help. New types of dry kibbled diets have been proven to reduce plaque and tartar buildup more effectively than standard dry diets. A variety of chew toys are designed to aid dental health, but owners should avoid offering very hard objects to vigorous chewers to avoid broken teeth.

Trying to select products to help prevent periodontal disease may seem confusing, given the spectrum of products and claims. The Veterinary Oral Health Council was formally established in 1997 to review the efficacy of products claiming to reduce plaque or calculus in cats and dogs. If a product meets certain standards, the manufacturer may use the VOHC Seal of Acceptance on packaging. Hill's Pet Nutrition, Inc., of Topeka, Kan., was awarded the first seal for its Prescription Diet t/d last tear. "Knowing what is effective is important," said Dr. Colin E. Harvey, director of the VOHC and professor of surgery and dentistry at the University of Pennsylvan ia School of Veterinary Medicine. "It should allow consumers to make better choices."

Even when their periodontal disease is severe, many dogs suffer in silence, showing no overt signs of pain. They continue to eat even hard dry food simply by swallowing the kibbles whole, causing owners to believe the dog feels okay. "We know periodontal disease affects a dog's quality of life. Owners may attribute some symptoms, such as decreased appetite and playing less, to old age," Dr. Lobprise said. "But if periodontal disease is the cause, after treatment owners often will come back and tell us, 'He's like a puppy again!'"

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