According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, more than 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have dental disease by age 3, so there’s a good chance your four-legged friend has tartar buildup and gum inflammation. Your pet’s dental health and comfort is important to the Kennedy Heights Animal and Bird Hospital team, so we debunk nine common myths regarding pet dental care.

Myth #1: Pets normally have bad breath

Your pet’s breath does have a natural odor, but a foul stench emanating from their mouth is not normal. Bad breath is a sign of excessive oral bacteria, loose or rotten teeth, inflamed gums, or periodontal disease.

Myth #2: The groomer cleans my pet’s teeth every month

A groomer provides toothbrushing, but not a thorough dental cleaning—brushing your own teeth once a month would significantly impair your dental health. Your pet’s dental needs include an annual dental exam, regular professional dental cleaning, and toothbrushing at home.

Myth #3: My pet has no dental pain because they eat fine

Our pets, and especially our cats, have evolved from the wild to mask weakness signs. This adaptive behavior is helpful to avoid predators, but does not communicate their dental discomfort. Pets seldom stop eating because of dental pain, and all you may see is irritable behavior or reluctance to have their mouth touched. As you may know from your own teeth, dental disease can be painful, and many patients seem much happier, with increased energy, after a dental procedure.

Myth #4: My pet eats hard kibble, which keeps their teeth clean

Although you may hear crunching noises when your pet eats, hard kibble usually breaks apart when hit by the teeth, and offers minimal benefits. Prescription dental diets are softer and provide a fiber matrix that rubs on the teeth to help prevent plaque accumulation.

Myth #5: Anesthesia-free dental cleaning is safer for my pet

Dental cleaning without anesthesia may improve your pet’s appearance—if much can be done on an anxious, uncomfortable awake pet. Dental cleaning without anesthesia can be traumatic for your pet because strangers are putting sharp instruments in their mouth, and they are being firmly restrained to avoid injury. A non-anesthetic cleaning does not allow a total cleaning, because most dental disease occurs below the gumline and cannot be reached if the pet is not completely still. Also, a non-anesthetic cleaning does not allow dental X-rays, which are necessary to evaluate the health of tooth roots, or extraction of bad teeth. As members of the American Animal Hospital Association, the Kennedy Heights Animal and Bird Hospital team does not perform non-anesthetic dental procedures.

Myth #6: My pet is too old to be anesthetized for a dental cleaning

We often perform dental procedures on senior pets, because they tend to have more significant dental problems. Prior to the procedure, all pets receive a pre-anesthetic screening that includes a thorough physical exam, blood work to check organ function, and other diagnostics as needed. We tailor an individual anesthetic protocol to your pet, and closely monitor their status during the procedure to ensure their safety. 

Myth #7: My pet can’t eat without their teeth

Surprisingly, pets, who have more teeth than humans, can eat both canned and dry food without teeth, and may eat more comfortably after diseased teeth are extracted. 

Myth #8: My pet won’t let me brush their teeth

The trick to brushing your pet’s teeth is to start slowly. The first step is to allow them to lick the pet-flavored toothpaste off your finger. After that becomes a pleasant routine, you can gently rub a toothpaste-coated finger along their teeth as a tasty treat. The last step is using a toothbrush, which is necessary for only 8 to 10 seconds. Ensure they associate their regular toothbrushing with a treat, a walk, or playtime following the procedure. 

Myth #9: An anesthetized dental cleaning is too expensive

A healthy mouth is an investment in your pet’s overall health. Dental disease can affect other body organs and cause serious kidney, liver, lung, and heart infections. Regular cleanings prevent bacteria and debris accumulation that leads to gum and bone deterioration, and help avoid complicated dental procedures in the future. A large part of a pet’s dental cleaning costs is the pre-anesthetic screening, general anesthesia, and intravenous fluids, which are not usually required for people. Keeping your pet free of dental disease now can help prevent expensive treatments later.

When the Kennedy Heights Animal and Bird Hospital team examines your pet’s teeth, we can determine whether your pet needs a professional dental cleaning, demonstrate toothbrushing, and recommend food or treats to help combat plaque buildup. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns about your pet’s dental health.