You want me to brush my pet’s teeth?
We all know how important dental health is for our own teeth. We go to the dentist regularly and brush and floss our teeth twice a day. Dental disease is the most common health problem pets face. 70% of cats and 80% of dogs will have some level of disease by age 2, with more recent evidence showing these figures are likely to be conservative.¹ But how many pet owners know that a pet dental home care routine is important?
Recommending pet dental home care is important
You are probably aware that the key to controlling dental disease is plaque. This biofilm consisting of saliva, bacteria and tiny food particles sticks to teeth and accumulates particularly at the gum line. If not removed, it can mix with minerals in saliva to cause tartar and the bacteria can cause pain, gingivitis and eventually tooth loss. But did you know that plaque attaches to the tooth surface within 24 hours of cleaning?² And that periodontal pockets can become reinfected within 2 weeks in the absence of homecare?³ This is why it is important to ensure clients know that dental care is a two-step process that involves both professional and at home care. And why it is vital to recommend a homecare regime they can easily follow after all dental procedures.
What is the best pet dental home care regimen?
The best regime is the one that ensures maximum compliance. The primary goal of homecare is to reduce the amount of plaque on the teeth. Brushing a pet’s teeth each day has been shown to be the most effective way to mechanically remove plaque. However, we know that pets are not always cooperative and pet owners often find brushing difficult. In one clinical study, Hill’s t/d performed significantly better than tooth brushing in preventing gingivitis in cats, and one of the main drivers of this difference was hypothesised to be client compliance.⁴ This is why recommending specialised dental foods can be a good alternative for many pet owners.
There are so many dental diets and treats available, how do I know which one to recommend?
The key to controlling dental disease is to control plaque especially at the gumline. Remember that tartar is generally non-pathogenic and plaque control above the gingival margin does not improve periodontal disease. Controlling plaque is something that not all dental diets and treats do. One thing to look for on the pack is the VOHC seal. It is found on dental products for both cats and dogs, and can help you determine whether the product has been proven to control plaque.
The VOHC is an independent group consisting of veterinary dental specialists. It establishes protocols and standards, reviews the research performed by companies and awards a Seal of Acceptance for the control of plaque, tartar or both. Only Hill’s dental foods (Hill’s Prescription Diet t/d and Science Diet Oral Care) have been awarded the VOHC seal for the control of plaque and tartar for both dogs and cats. In addition, Hill’s t/d is the only diet with published evidence to show a positive impact on gingival inflammation.⁵,⁶
How do Hill’s Dental Diets Work?
Most dry kibble shatters and crumbles in the mouth when the tooth comes into contact with the food. This is why ordinary dry kibble has minimal effect on the dental health of our pets.
Hill’s dental foods have an innovative kibble designed to work like a toothbrush as pets eat. This diagram shows how they work. The unique combination of kibble size, shape and interlocking fibre technology allows the tooth to penetrate deeply into the kibble before it breaks. The kibble gently scrubs the tooth surface to clean teeth as the pet eats.
What is the difference between the Science Diet Oral Care and Prescription Diet t/d?
Kibble size and density are both important features of Hill’s dental foods. While all Hill’s dental foods have a large kibble size, t/d kibbles are the biggest allowing it to clean teeth to the gum line. Hill’s t/d also has a lower density which prevents the kibble from breaking easily, increasing the time that the kibble is in contact with the tooth surface, improving its tooth cleaning ability. These differences in size and density make the difference in the level of reduction of plaque, tartar and stain, and is why only t/d is clinically proven to reduce the occurrence of gingivitis. Science Diet Oral Care is recommended to improve dental health in healthy pets. For pets with dental disease, recommend Prescription Diet t/d.
In summary, the vast majority of dogs and cats over the age of 2 years have some degree of dental disease. For optimal dental health, we need to make sure that pet owners realise that dental care is a two step process and recommend pet dental home care regimes that control plaque and are easy to comply with.
You might be interested in checking out our other dental blog on This is how dental is really done.
- Niemiec B, Gawor J, Nemec A et al. World Small Animal Veterinary Association Global Dental Guidelines JSAP 2020;61:E50
- Wiggs RB, Lobprise HB. Periodontology, in Veterinary Dentistry, Principals and Practice: Philadelphia, PA, Lippincott – Raven. 1997 pp 186-231
- Rober M. Effect of scaling and root planing without dental homecare on the subgingival microbiota. Proceedings of the 16th European congress of veterinary dentistry 2007:pp 28-30
- Vrieling HE, Theyse FH, Van Windelhoff AJ, et al. Effectiveness of feeding large kibbles with mechanical cleaning properties to cats with gingivitis. Tijdschr Diergeneeskd. 2005;130:136-140
- Niemiec B, Gawor J, Nemec A et al. World Small Animal Veterinary Association Global Dental Guidelines JSAP 2020;61:E123
- Logan EI, Finney O, Hefferren JJ. Effects of a Dental Food on Plaque Accumulation and Gingival Health in Dogs. Journal of Veterinary Dentistry 2002; 19(1):15 –18
Dr Jessica Mills BVSc (Hons I), Hill’s Technical Services Veterinarian
Jessica graduated as a veterinarian from the University of Sydney with honours in 1999. After graduation she spent 10 years working first in mixed, and then small animal practice at a number of clinics both in Australia and the UK. She moved into industry in 2009, initially immersed in the world of fleas and ticks at Merial Australia and more recently enjoying utilising her skills in the field of nutrition as the Technical Services Veterinarian for NSW/ACT for Hill’s Pet Nutrition Australia.