Monica Fonseca

Veterinarians are quick to explain the importance of brushing, but studies show that 65 percent of pet owners do not brush their pet’s teeth. By investing up to 2 minutes a day brushing your pet’s teeth, you can improve their health and enjoy their fresher breath.

If my pet’s teeth look clean, can he still have dental disease?

The important area is just under the edge of the gum, or gingival margin, where it is difficult to see without using dental tools. Bad breath is caused by bacteria in the mouth; the highest concentration is beneath the gum line. This area, as well as the visible part of the tooth, can be assessed by your vet.

How often should my vet check my pet’s teeth?

Your pet should have its mouth examined once a year along with a routine checkup. After your pet reaches 7 years old, your vet may recommend more frequent checkups as an older pet’s heart, kidneys, bladder and liver are more sensitive to the effects of bacteria that cause dental disease.

Why do small breed dogs have more dental problems than large breed dogs?

We have bred some dogs to be smaller in size but the genes that control body size have been more effective in controlling body size than tooth size. The result is smaller dogs whose teeth are too big for their mouths.

Do specially formulated foods and treats help?

Pet food company research shows that tartar and plaque above the gum line may be reduced by consuming their food and treats. However, it does nothing below the gum line where most problems originate.

Is moist cat food better for cats’ teeth than dry kibble?

Surprisingly, yes. For many cats eating moist food causes fewer dental problems than eating hard kibble. Chewing kibble creates a common injury due to the force it creates that wears away tooth roots.

Are pet mouth rinses and wipes effective?

Without brushing, rinses and wipes are not that effective. Coupled with regular brushing, they can be very helpful. Many vets recommend products that contain Chlorhexadine, a plaque formation inhibitor.

Can I start brushing my 5-year-old dog’s teeth for the first time?

Absolutely. It is never too late to start healthier habits with your best friend. You can start by applying a thin layer of enzyme-containing toothpaste to the teeth using a square of gauze. The plaque will often come right off. You can also use a small, soft toothbrush that fits your dog’s mouth. As with anything new to your pet, gradual introduction will help ensure success. Keep it fun and start for only a few seconds.

• Monica Fonseca is a ‘teacher’ at Edu-Care for Dogs, an innovative Valley program that combines fun and effective training, guided socialization and safe, educational group play. Reach them at (480) 200-2011 or You can also visit them on Facebook at

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