The two most important ways to keep your pet’s mouth healthy are to brush their teeth and visit your vet regularly. The most important part of dental homecare is brushing the teeth. Brushing needs to be consistent in order to be effective, you need to brush at least a few times a week in order to keep teeth clean and prevent tartar buildup. Optimally, you should brush your pet’s teeth once daily for best results. Special pet tooth brushes or a children’s toothbrush (they are smaller and have softer bristles) should be used. Sometimes fingertip brushes that go over the index finger are better accepted by cats. Pet specific toothpaste should be used as well, not only because it tastes good (chicken, beef flavors) but also because it is safe if swallowed. It is crucial that you are patient and go slowly while trying to get your pet to accept a tooth brushing regime. Start with getting them to lick the toothpaste off your hand, then slowly get them to accept your brushing alongside their back teeth for longer and longer amounts of time. Eventually work your way up to brushing all the teeth. This is sometimes easier said than done for some pets! The American Veterinary Medical Association has a good video on their website about tooth brushing, you can find it here.
There are also oral rinses and gels you can apply to your pet’s mouth or gums that help prevent plaque buildup and can make your pet’s breath smell better. There are many of these products available but not all are created equal so it is important to consult your veterinarian as to which are best for your pet. There are special dental foods that are specially formulated to help clean the teeth as the animal eats. These can really help prevent tartar buildup so it is best to start feeding them early before the animal has visible tartar on the teeth and to use them along with brushing. Dental treats and chew toys can help as well but they are not a substitute for tooth brushing and too many dental treats will lead to weight gain long before they improve the teeth! Along with regular veterinary check-ups, taking care of your pet’s teeth at home will help prevent them from having bad breath or a painful mouth.