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Proper Dental Care for Pets

Posted April 23, 2010

An ounce of prevention may be worth a pound of cure, but when it comes to your pet's health, practicing good dental hygiene may make a significant difference.

In fact, an animal's teeth may be more important to its overall health than most pet owners realize, says Dr. J.R. "Bert" Dodd, a board certified veterinary dentist at Texas A&M University's College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

"Human dentists have done a really good job of educating people on practicing good preventive dental health, but often we don't think about preventive dental health for our pets," said Dodd. Overall dental health can be an indicator of current or future health challenges for humans and pets.

"As goes the mouth, so goes the health. So, taking care of your pet's mouth and keeping it nice and healthy, should help the animal live longer," said Dodd. Preventive dental care includes regularly brushing your pet's teeth and getting an oral evaluation and dental cleaning at least annually by your veterinarian.

Some pet owners may question the importance of dental health maintenance for pets based on their own experience with childhood pets, but veterinary medicine has come a long way over the past 20 years.

"It used to be that most of our pets died at younger ages, so periodontal disease did not have a chance to impact their health and cause damage to their kidneys, livers or other vital organs" noted Dodd. "Veterinary medicine has advanced such that we are now better able to treat these diseases and our animals are living longer, healthier lives."

Dental therapy for pets includes many of the same procedures that help humans maintain healthy teeth, gums and mouths. Available treatments include oral surgery, periodontics, endodontics, restorations, and even orthodontics on animal patients as needed. Some of these procedures may be offered by your family veterinarian or you may be referred to a board certified veterinary dentist.

It is highly important that pet owners become aware of the serious consequences of ignoring their pet's dental health.

"Periodontal disease is a disease of neglect. If preventative dental health is not practiced and periodontal therapy, such as root canals and tooth extractions, is ignored, other health complications may follow," said Dodd.

Teeth, gum or mouth problems can cause infections and disease, or they can be symptoms of serious illness in veterinary patients.

"The teeth are 42 little patients in a dog's mouth, so they need to be well taken care of and treated with respect" added Dodd.

More and more pet owners are recognizing the connection between healthy teeth and their animal's overall wellbeing. When you make a dental appointment for yourself, it might also be a good idea to make a veterinary appointment to have your dog or cat's teeth cleaned and checked.


Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at Suggestions for future topics may be directed to

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