A step-by-step guide to brushing pets' teeth
Most people are well aware of the steps they should take to have a healthy set of teeth. Brush regularly. Enjoy sweets in moderation. Floss. Schedule regular checkups with a dentist. But when it comes to animals, many pet owners are clueless about dental care.
February is Pet Dental Health Month, so it's time to clue them in. And according to Dr. Scott Linick, a fellow of the Academy of Veterinary Dentistry and owner of Plainfield Animal Hospital in South Plainfield, N.J., veterinarians have a long way to go before the general public understands the importance of pet dental care.
"In general, most veterinary clients are not aware of the need for pet dental healthcare," Dr. Linick says. "Many clients feel that giving their dog hard food or chewies is enough to keep its teeth clean." He believes that in the 1960s, some manufacturers started focusing on the role of treats in a healthy mouth over the need for veterinary dentistry. But Dr. Linick says those claims don't show the whole picture. "We stress to clients that if they themselves did nothing but eat hard food and chew bones, they wouldn't have many friends because their breath would be a disaster," he says.Dr. Linick estimates that just 10 percent of pet owners brush their pets' teeth daily. But while that number may seem discouragingly low, it means there's a gigantic client base for you to reach. And often, these clients just need a little encouragement. "People who are on the fence will generally go to the other side if you give them that extra push," Dr. Linick says.
And giving them that extra push starts with education. Dr. Linick uses a systematic approach when performing a wellness examination. "If I see signs of dental disease, I point it out to the owner and describe how they need to treat it, whether it's a veterinary procedure or home care," Dr. Linick says. "But I also point out healthy teeth and ask clients how they plan to maintain them."
While not all clients will be receptive to the idea of brushing their pets' teeth, you can help educate the ones who are. Head to http://dvm360.com/teethbrushing to download a client handout with step-by-step instructions. Pretty soon, your patients will be smiling bright—and so will you.