We’ve all been told to brush our dog’s teeth. We know we should. We mean to do it. Unfortunately it’s a task that often falls through the cracks. For some, time is the problem, for others it’s an uncooperative dog who makes it impossible to get a toothbrush near her molars. Whatever the reason, your dog’s oral health—or lack of it—may have reached a point where it requires a professional veterinary dentist.
Veterinary dentist Thoulton W. Surgeon recalls the patient who most clearly demonstrated the importance of brushing a dog’s teeth. What struck him first was the poor animal’s breath: he could smell it from across the room. When the doctor got close enough to take a look, he discovered a mouth of horrors—red, inflamed, bleeding gums, teeming with bacteria, and brown and yellow stained enamel. Pulling 13 teeth was unavoidable. After giving the dog a thorough cleaning, Surgeon sent the owner home with marching orders: “Brush his teeth!”
When teeth are already covered with brown- and yellow-stained tartar and gums are bleeding or showing signs of inflammation, your dog needs a professional cleaning. But it’s important to start brushing again immediately after the dentist has scaled away the tartar and polished the teeth. That’s because plaque starts to accumulate within two or three days, so catching it early may delay or eliminate the need for another cleaning down the line.
Dr. Surgeon says that tooth brushing should be on every dog owner’s daily agenda. Spend as much time as you can, and for as long as your dog will allow. “It’s very important, maybe more so than what I do,” he says. “What I do, in terms of removing calculus and plaque is about a third as important as brushing teeth on a daily basis.”
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