VCA South Arundel Animal Hospital

85 West Central Avenue
Edgewater, MD 21037


Dental Home Care

Poor dental health in our pets is much more serious than a bad case of doggy or kitty breath. Dental disease causes pain and can lead to tooth loss, as well as result in bacterial infection than can spread to the heart, liver and kidneys. Periodontal disease is one of the most commonly diagnosed diseases in adult dogs and cats. Approximately 80% of dogs and at least 50% of cats over the age of three have advanced periodontal disease that requires professional treatment. 

It is important to remember that pets should be evaluated for dental disease by a veterinarian prior to beginning home care. If severe periodontal disease is present, attempting to brush your pet's teeth may cause pain and bleeding. Remember, only plaque (not calculus) can be removed by brushing. A thorough dental cleaning under anesthesia is often a necessary first step before beginning home care. Once your pet's teeth have been professionally cleaned, it is up to you to keep their smiles beautiful!

Brush Daily

Daily teeth brushing is the best defense against periodontal disease. Plaque bacteria begin to colonize a clean tooth within 24-36 hours of eating a meal. Removal of plaque bacteria from the tooth surface to prevent the accumulation of calculus is our goal. This can only be accomplished by daily brushing of the teeth. In addition to reducing the risk of periodontal disease, you will be more likely to identify other problems in your pet's mouth (such as broken teeth or oral masses) with daily inspection of the oral cavity.

A soft bristled toothbrush should be used, along with pet toothpaste (a specially flavored toothpaste with chicken or malt.) Avoid using human toothpaste which contains fluoride and should not be swallowed. Start slowly, by first allowing your pet to lick the toothpaste off your finger, then off the toothbrush. When brushing, concentrate on the outer surfaces of the teeth only. Hold the brush at a 45 degree angle to the tooth surface, with the bristles pointing toward the gum line. Work the toothbrush in a gentle circular motion. Try for 15 seconds on each side of the mouth. Go slowly and be patient. A demonstration by a veterinary technician can be provided at South Arundel Veterinary Hospital at your request.

Other Home Care Products

Many other dental home care products are available, but remember that none can replace daily brushing. Dental diets (such as Hill's Prescription t/d), oral rinses (such as OxyFresh) and appropriate chew treats (such as C.E.T. Chews) can all aid in the prevention of plaque build-up. Oravet is a product that provides a protective barrier against plaque and calculus formation on the surface of the teeth.


Please feel free to discuss your pet's dental health with the veterinarians and technicians at South Arundel Veterinary Hospital. We will be happy to evaluate your pet's oral health and get you started on a home care program.

The Dangers of Chew Toys

Although the biting force of a dog's jaw is five times greater than a human's, the enamel coating on a dog's tooth is only 1.5 mm thick, compared to 3 mm thickness on a human tooth. This means that dog's teeth are actually weaker than our teeth! Many of the chew toys we offer our dogs are much harder on their teeth and as a result can lead to broken teeth. A good rule to follow is you should be able to bend a chew toy in your hands. If you are unable to do so, it is too hard for your dog to safely chew on without the risk of breaking a tooth.

Kongs and thin, flat rawhides are safe choices for dogs to chew on. Real bones, thick rawhides (or those shaped into bones or other objects), cow hooves and Nylabones can all result in broken teeth. Tennis balls can also cause damage by wearing off the tooth enamel and weakening the tooth.

Broken teeth can be very painful and eventually lead to an abscessed root. All broken teeth should be evaluated by a veterinarian for treatment recommendations.

Unerupted Teeth and Dentigerous Cysts

If your dog or cat has missing teeth that have not fallen out or been extracted due to disease, there may be a tooth present beneath the gum line. These teeth that have failed to erupt can cause the formation of a cyst originating from tissues surrounding the crown of the tooth. These dentigerous cysts cause destruction of the surrounding bone and can cause pain to the pet. Dental x-rays to determine the presence of an impacted tooth and extraction of the tooth are recommended. A veterinarian can determine if your pet is missing any teeth during a thorough oral exam.


Feline Oral Resorptive Lesions: A Common Dental Problem in Cats

Many cats (and rarely some dogs) suffer from a painful process of tooth resorption. These tooth defects are called feline oral (or odontoclastic) resorptive lesions (FORLs). They can cause the tooth root structure to break down, the enamel and tooth to erode away and eventually bone will replace the tooth. The lower jaw premolars are most often affected, but resorptive lesions can affect any tooth. The cause of these lesions is unknown.

Cats affected with FORLs may show increased salivation, bleeding in the mouth or difficulty eating. When the lesion erodes into sensitive dentin, causing pain, jaw spasms occur whenever the lesion is touched. Despite the fact that resorptive lesions can be quite painful, many cats do not show any obvious signs and must be diagnosed by a veterinarian. An oral examination while under anesthesia and dental x-rays are sometimes necessary. Teeth affected by resorptive lesions must be extracted to alleviate the pain.