Most of us don't think about our daily oral care routine. We've brushed our teeth as part of an everyday regimen for most of our lives, and it doesn't take much effort to spend the extra time in the bathroom flossing, brushing and rinsing.
Good dental hygiene affects more than our mouths; poor tooth care has been directly linked to a range of other illnesses including heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. In dogs, oral hygiene is just as critical. However, the impact of poor dental care in dogs is often minimized, and it's not uncommon for pet owners to wait until secondary conditions such as gum disease to develop before taking action. By then, only a professional dental scaling can help, and because general anesthesia is required for the procedure it is both costly and increasingly dangerous as pets get older.
Whether your dog is still young or you've already been through one or more dental cleanings, there's never a wrong time to begin regular tooth brushing. Starting proper dental care today using an enzymatic toothpaste designed for pets will help to significantly reduce the amount of tartar and plaque on your dog's teeth, which will decrease the risk for future inflammation and pain, gum infections, tooth decay and cavities, and infections that can spread to internal organs.
What Is in Enzymatic Toothpaste
Your human toothpaste contains a host of ingredients, from those that help to make it palatable to those designed for whitening. The most effective toothpastes also contain fluoride, which prevents cavities from forming by strengthening your enamel.
Enzymatic toothpaste works differently. It contains an ingredient called glucose oxidase or sometimes a combination of glucose oxidase and lactoperoxidase. Glucose oxidase is an enzyme that targets plaque and tartar by reducing oral bacteria. Lactoperoxidase causes a reduction of microorganisms in the mouth, which additionally helps to reduce tartar buildup.
Unlike the toothpaste you use, enzymatic toothpaste is specifically formulated to be safe for dogs, which is critical since you can't teach your dog to spit. That's important because several of toothpaste's ingredients are toxic when swallowed, including baking soda, salt, fluoride and a common sweetener called Xylitol.
Tips for Introducing Your Dog to Brushing
Some dogs are more anxious about tooth brushing than others, and it's important to respect any fear or discomfort your dog may exhibit. When you move too quickly and aggressively, it can oftentimes be very difficult to regain your dog's trust and depending on his size and general temperament, that may make regular tooth brushing extremely difficult or even impossible.
If your dog isn't relaxed about the idea of having his teeth brushed, here are some tactics you can employ:
- Familiarize him with the sensations of tooth brushing by simply touching his mouth and gums
- Let him smell and lick enzymatic toothpaste off your finger and then eventually the toothbrush
- Start with a fingertip toothbrush or a cloth, then graduate to a toothbrush
- Start with just a few teeth; increase brushing time slowly to 30 - 60 seconds
- Be consistent, brush daily