Lane e-mailed me to ask how to get the pooch used to the idea of tooth-brushing. Actually, we want them to accept the actual practice of tooth-brushing in addition to the idea of it [joke: observe the twinkle in my eye, please]. Lane’s second question was about the type of toothbrush you need. Why not just buy the best toothbrush you can get for a dollar? I mean, it’s for the dog! We’re talking about animals who are not exactly particular what they put in their mouths, after all. So, here’s my opinion on the matter:

We sell the C.E.T. double-ended toothbrush for under five dollars. This brush has a large head on one end and a small one on the other. The heads have tapered tips and are angled from the shaft. The shafts are slightly flexible, and most importantly, the bristles are very soft, almost as soft as a make-up brush. This is important for two reasons. Firstly, we don’t want the brushing to be ucomfortable. Secondly, the most important area to clean is the gingival sulcus, the small recess under the gum margin that is not attached to the tooth. This is one to two millimeters deep. Dogs and cats rarely develop cavities, but gum disease is rampant. The plaque (which turns into tartar by mineralizing) develops not only on the crown of the tooth where you can see it, but more importantly, in that area UNDER the gum-line, and this is what produces disease. A cheap toothbrush is unlikely to have the softness and flexibility to reach this most important area under the gumline.

To get your pet used to the idea of toothbrushing, start by simply working your finger over the teeth, possibly with some tasty substance involved. Many pets like the taste of garlic powder. Just don’t use something so tasty that your finger gets eaten along with the ketchup. Progress gradually to using the toothbrush, following with food rewards if you need to, at first.

Human toothpaste is full of foaming agents, which most pets hate, so I’d not recommend it. As in people, you can use baking soda. C.E.T. toothpaste has no foaming agents, includes special plaque-fighting enzymes (at least they say it does, for what that’s worth), and comes in mint,beef, seafood and poultry flavors (“tastes like chicken”). That’s what we sell. I like the vanilla-mint, myself.

If you get discouraged, or lazy (like me), then just pay attention to the teeth and have them professionally cleaned before the gums recede and expose tooth roots. Once that happens, you have lost the normal architecture and the mouth will never really be healthy again.

It is really quite amazing how a healthy mouth prolongs the animal’s quality of life.

This post was provided by Dr. Everett Mobley of Kennet Veterinary Clinic in Kennet, MO.