Animal Clinic of Kalispell - February 2020




How Often Do Veterinarians Brush Their Dogs’ Teeth?

I ’ve been around long enough that when I was in veterinary school, pets didn’t have teeth. At least, that’s what the curriculum implied. We learned physiology, biochemistry, medicine, diagnostics, and surgical technique, but oral health wasn’t given a second thought. During my senior year, while in my local practice rotations, I did a single dental treatment. Mind you, I had no training in this. I felt like some

our continuing education for technicians. We need to be able to provide our patients with the best medicine to keep their teeth healthy. Our goal is to help our patients’ mouths be healthy for a lifetime. Dental care is about more than cleaning off tartar and removing rotten teeth. Animal dentistry has developed to the point where root canals and orthodontics are possible. Saving a tooth is so much better for a pet’s long-term health

Civil War surgeon on the battlefield trying to clean and extract those teeth. Looking back, it was terrible medicine. It blows my mind how long it took us to pay attention to pet dentistry. When I graduated from veterinary school in 1995, I was not trained on anything related to dentistry. Now, prophylactic and therapeutic dentistry is a HUGE part of our daily practice and medical care. It finally dawned on everyone that if it’s bad when we don’t brush our teeth, what happens to our pets who’ve never brushed their teeth?

than removing a tooth. Infected teeth can cause bone infections and pathologic jaw fractures, and those have to go, but extracting certain teeth changes the facial structure and anatomy, making it harder for them to chew and keep their tongues inside their mouths. We’ve all seen pets (even sleeping in our office right now) with no teeth left, and they do fine, but it isn’t ideal.

Dental care is one of those areas where our pets rely on us entirely. They can’t brush their own teeth, gargle with mouthwash after dinner, or tell us if their mouth is sore. If a dog breaks its tooth chewing on a bone or an old cat ends up with a dental abscess, they can’t do much about it! We need to be aware of our pets’ oral health needs, just like we’re aware of how much they eat or when they need to go outside.

The mouth offers a direct path to the rest of the body. Just like in people, if a dog or cat has rotten teeth, they’re filling their entire biologic system with bacteria and inflammation. It leads to a mess of health troubles, which is why it’s so important for pet owners to brush their pets’ teeth. That said, I’m a veterinarian, and even I don’t brush my own dogs’ teeth nearly as often as I should! That is exactly why our practice focuses our attention on it. Additional technical training in dentistry is a focus of

As far as longevity, it’s not the most stylish part of veterinary medicine, but it is one of the most important.



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