If home care is not in place all your efforts of dental prophylaxis are temporary. The pet’s dental hygienist; Vet tech, nurse or Veterinarian can show you an individualised and correct tooth brushing technique for your pets. Often a general anaesthetic is necessary to be accurate in the assessment, as a periodontal probe will be required to measure periodontal pocket depths. This can be combined with the preliminary Scale, Polish and Prophylaxis. After examining the pets’ dentition, the client will need to be informed about supplementary brushing of particular areas. If these are too difficult for the client to keep clean (e.g. furcation involvement of upper molar or premolar teeth in otherwise sound immobile structures) the pet may be better off having an extraction, or perioceutical placement of an antibiotic gel.

Other methods of home care include: CET enzymatic chews, Royal Canin dental diets, Greenies, Kong chew toys, Tug toys, carrots, celery sticks, apples, Maxiguard oral gel. However the client should supervise the use of these. Teaching the ‘Brush off’ Many pets require a prophylactic dental scale and polish under a general anaesthetic before the client can begin to provide helpful tooth brushing. It is not possible to brush away deposits of calculus, and pets with painful mouths will not allow a toothbrush anywhere near them. The system of praise and food treats needs to be employed as positive reinforcement to make the learning experience work. It is pleasurable for the animal to have a clean mouth and most pets will look forward to their tooth brushing time, requiring very little persuasion. Be regular. Once or twice daily is often necessary, set up a routine. Begin slowly with only one or two teeth, or even starting with the pet licking the toothpaste off the brush or finger stall. Reward. End positively with praise. Make an associated location, e.g. on top of the washing machine. Use an associated word with praise, e.g. “tooth-time” and lots of pats, treats “good tooth-time” in the higher pitched happier voice. Praise lavishly.

Use tasty food rewards liberally, liver Jerky snax, pate’, freshly cooked chook pieces, cheese. Use a finger stall brush with pleasant tasting tooth paste for animals – human ones ‘burn’ the mouth, are unpalatable for pets, and are meant to be rinsed out. Graduate to a small head toothbrush to reach the distal teeth surfaces after 2-3 weeks. It may not be necessary to open the mouth, often only the lateral (buccal) areas require brushing.

Dr Elaine Cebuliak

Dr Elaine is a highly experienced holistic vet and pioneer of Animal Wellness in Brisbane. She also assists with many charitable projects in Australia and in Bali.

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