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How Do I Care For My Pet’s Teeth?

September 5th, 2018

Our pets are a valued part of the family, but dogs and cats are not regularly known for their minty-fresh breath. Did you know that bad breath can be a sign of a more serious dental problem for your furry companion?

If you live with a pet or two, you’ll want to brush up on your animal dental knowledge and make sure everyone’s teeth stay healthy.

Proper dental care is essential to a pet’s overall well-being. About 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats suffer from periodontal disease after the age of three.

Not only is this unhealthy for their mouth, it can lead to more serious health problems, including organ damage and heart failure. Toxins from periodontal disease seep into your pet’s bloodstream and have the potential to cause fatal organ damage.

Your veterinarian will check your pet’s teeth at an annual or six-month examination, but here are a few signs of periodontal disease you should watch for at home:

  • Yellow/brown tartar
  • Foul breath
  • Red, inflamed, or bleeding gums
  • Excessive drooling
  • Pawing at the mouth or rubbing one’s jaw against objects
  • Difficulty chewing

Aside from regular checkups at the vet, the best thing you can do for your pet is brush its teeth daily. Bacteria can recolonize onto the surface of teeth within 24 to 36 hours, so it’s essential to remove plaque before it turns into tartar. Ask your vet for a recommended toothbrush and pet toothpaste.

Dental hygiene chews can also help to reduce the effects of gingivitis, but some chews can actually make your pet’s oral health worse. Treats such as cow hooves, pig’s ears, and animal bones can damage teeth and cause other problems if ingested. Your vet can help you choose items that are healthiest for your pet.

Your dog’s favorite toys may also pose a threat to their oral health. Abrasive toys such as the popular green tennis balls can create wear and tear on the surface of pets’ teeth.

As with your own teeth, your dog or cat’s oral health plays a large role in its overall health. Remember to schedule regular checkups and ask your veterinarian for more tips on how to care for your pet’s teeth most effectively.

Caring for Your Dog’s Teeth

May 2nd, 2018

It may come as a surprise to learn that dogs, like humans, have both baby and adult teeth. Most dogs, unlike humans, have all of their adult teeth by the time they are seven months old, so it’s time to start looking after their dental health when they are still puppies.

While dogs generally don’t develop cavities, periodontal disease is the one of the most common diseases affecting dogs. Periodontal disease starts when the bacteria in your pet’s mouth form plaque. The plaque can harden into tartar, and, if plaque and tartar spread under the gum line, can be responsible for a number of serious problems. Veterinarians warn that tooth loss, tissue damage, bone loss and infection can be the result of periodontal disease. Professional dental treatment is important if your dog is suffering from periodontal disease, and your vet can describe the options available to you. But the time to act is before disease develops. Let’s bone up on some preventative care!

Brushing

There are brushes and toothpastes designed especially for your dog. Train your puppy from an early age to open his mouth to allow you to examine his teeth and gums. (This will also come in handy if you ever need to give him medicine.) Most dogs will accept brushing, and toothpastes come in dog-friendly flavors. Human toothpaste should never be used because it contains cleaners and abrasives that should not be swallowed by your pet. There are also dental wipes available that can be used once and thrown away. Your vet can advise you how to ease your pet into a brushing routine.

Gels and Rinses

Whether you rub an antiseptic gel on your dog’s teeth or squirt an antiseptic rinse into his mouth, these formulas can reduce the build-up of plaque. Not all dogs take to the taste of these solutions, but in general they are safe and effective. Ask your vet for recommendations if you would like to try this method.

Diet

Several dietary products offer anti-plaque ingredients or a kibble shape designed to reduce the formation of plaque. Talk to your vet for the best possible diet and nutrition suggestions for your unique pet.

Chew Toys

Chewing can help reduce plaque build-up if done consistently, and chew toys should be chosen for tooth and digestive safety. Some animal-based products and hard plastic toys are so rigid that they can cause damage to teeth or gums, so be sure to look for safe toys.  Dogs shouldn’t be left alone with toys due to choking or swallowing hazards—if the chew toy becomes small enough to cause choking, or your dog is swallowing large chunks that might not be digestible, time to replace it.

Your veterinarian is the best resource for maintaining your dog’s health and developing a dental routine both you and your pet can live with. When your four-legged friend goes for his next check-up, ask your vet what you can do to keep him and his smile fetching for a long, long time.

Brushing: Before or after breakfast?

April 25th, 2018

In a perfect world, we would all jump out of bed ready to greet the day with a big smile and a toothbrush close at hand to clean our teeth immediately. But if you can’t even find your toothbrush before you’ve had your first cup of coffee, does it really make a difference if you brush and floss after breakfast? Perhaps! Let’s talk biology.

Normal saliva production during the day benefits our teeth and mouths in surprising ways. Saliva washes away food particles to keep our teeth cleaner. It contains cells which combat bacteria and infection. It even provides proteins and minerals to help protect our teeth from decay. But saliva production slows dramatically as we sleep, and the amount of bacteria in our mouths increases. While one of the nasty—and obvious—side effects of bacterial growth is morning breath, there is an invisible effect, which is more harmful. Bacteria in plaque convert sugar and carbohydrates into acids which attack our gums and enamel and can lead to both gingivitis and cavities.

  • If You Brush Before Breakfast

Brushing and flossing first thing in the morning removes the plaque that has built up during the night and takes care of many of the bacteria who are ready to enjoy the sugar and carbs in that breakfast with you. If you brush before eating breakfast, rinse your mouth with water after your meal, floss if needed, and you are good to go.

  • If You Choose to Brush After Breakfast

But if you decide that doughnut simply can’t wait, you should ideally postpone brushing for 20-30 minutes after your meal. Of course, these are minutes in which bacteria can make use of those new sugars and carbohydrates. So why shouldn’t you brush immediately after eating? Many foods and beverages, especially acidic ones such as grapefruit and orange juice, can weaken the surface of your teeth. If you rinse with water after eating and wait at least 20-30 minutes before brushing, your enamel will be “remineralized” (another benefit of saliva) and ready for cleaning.

No matter if you take a “seize the day” approach and brush first thing in the morning, or a “seize the doughnut” approach and brush soon after eating, the important word here is “brushing.” Dr. Bentz and our East Norriton, PA team are happy to make suggestions as to the best morning routine for you. One thing is certain: if you give your teeth and gums two minutes of careful brushing and flossing in the morning, you can’t help but start your day off right!

How to Prevent Dry Socket

April 18th, 2018

When you have a tooth extracted, your body immediately sets to work to help protect the affected area. The blood that collects at the site of the extraction clots to cover and protect the wound. This is a normal response, and protects the nerves and bone that have been exposed with the removal of your tooth. Normally, the gum tissue will close over the area within a few weeks.

But sometimes the clot becomes dislodged or moved before you have a chance to heal. The result is that the nerves and bone in the extraction site are exposed to air and outside substances. Bacteria can contaminate the wound and lead to pain, infection, and further damage. This condition is known as dry socket.

There are certain activities that should definitely be avoided so you are not at risk for dry socket.

  • Straws and suction: The action of using a straw causes suction that can dislodge the clot. You can still enjoy the soothing coolness of a milkshake, but use a spoon.
  • Spitting: You might be tempted to rinse and spit immediately to clean your mouth, but spitting can also dislodge the clot. We will let you know how to clean your mouth and teeth for the next few days.
  • Smoking: Not only does smoking provide a suction effect that can remove the clot, but smoking and chewing tobacco can slow healing as well.

There are also steps you can take to aid the healing process.

  • Caring for your extraction site

Dr. Bentz will give you instructions on caring for your mouth and teeth for the next few days. Gentle care for the extraction site is vital. And treat yourself gently as well. Rest if you need to, and avoid activities that might impact your wound.

  • Think about your diet

Stick to soft foods for the first day or so and chew on the side opposite your extraction site. Carbonated and caffeinated beverages should be avoided, as well as food like peanuts or popcorn that lodge in the teeth.

  • Watch for symptoms of dry socket

How do you know if you have a dry socket? Monitor your pain and the appearance of the site after the extraction. For the first few days, you might feel some pain in the immediate area. Pain that intensifies after three or four days is usually not a result of the extraction. An unpleasant odor or taste in your mouth could be a sign of dry socket. You might look in the mirror and notice that the clot is no longer there, or appears to have been dislodged. If any of these symptoms occur, call our East Norriton, PA office at once. If you are experiencing dry socket, the extraction site needs to be cleaned and protected from further injury, and we can prescribe antibiotics if needed.

Dry socket is a rare occurrence, but if you have any symptoms that concern you, we want to hear about them. We will work with you to make your extraction go as smoothly as possible. Talk to us about your concerns before any procedure, and we will provide detailed information for the healing process. Keep us in the loop as you recuperate, and we will work together to make your recovery a speedy one.