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How to care for your pet's teeth

Dear Fisher,

I am happy the holidays are over and all those tempting sweets have been eaten or given away. Boy, it is hard not to just chin up to the table and grab a bite. But the last thing I want is to get whisked away to the vet to get my teeth cleaned. Is it possible for my humans to do dental work right here in my own home?


You are one lucky dog if your people are concerned about your teeth. It is good for your overall health and popularity.

Dogs, just like humans, can have all sorts of problems related to bad teeth. Too many table scraps and sweets can lead to plaque, then tartar, and ultimately cavities, caused by bacteria that produce acids that can burn through your tooth enamel.

The importance of scaling is to get at the bacteria in the gum line. Polishing is pretty self-explanatory. Your friends will see you coming with those pearly whites gleaming in the sun. Your vet can scale and polish your teeth, but with proper weekly teeth maintenance, scaling and polishing only need doing every two to three years.

If your humans are already over-tasked, your groomer may also apply general tooth and mouth maintenance along with that adorable puppy cut. They often have products available and are usually quite knowledgeable about proper dental care. Online, you can find an array of utensils, sprays and gels to suit your taste.

Signs of poor dental health include tartar, which looks like a hard, creamy-brown material on your teeth. Other signs are bad breath, of course, and receding gums and difficulty eating. Loss of appetite and sensitivity around the mouth mean you should get to the vet soon.

Home dental care could be a nice bonding between you and your human. A few tips on getting started:

• Your human should start by stroking the outside of you mouth to get you used to idea that this is just another form of petting.

• Try a breath spray. Think of it as a nice refreshing mist that will allow you to slurp all over your human's face again.

• Next your human can put a small amount of tooth gel on his finger and gently distribute amongst your teeth. Repeat daily until you are used to someone messing with the inside of your mouth.

• Now for the toothbrush. You may be more accepting of the finger brush, which covers your human's finger and has little rubber bristles on one side. Whatever you do, put your foot down at the use of human toothpastes and toothbrushes. They are not meant for your enjoyment.

In the interest of equality, I must mention that all this knowledge can apply to cats as well.

— Fisher lives in Tampa Bay with her humans and loves to give advice. Send questions and a photo to [email protected] or visit

How to care for your pet's teeth 01/08/09 [Last modified: Friday, October 28, 2011 1:22pm]
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