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Oral Health

Authors: Normand Viau, Jeffrey Klausner, Geneviève Rougeau, Preston R. Buff


Veterinary dentistry is one of the fastest developing specialty areas for pets. Veterinarians now recognize that oral health is of critical importance to the lifelong health of pets. Research1 shows that many diseases of the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys resulting in poor pet health and reduced life expectancy have their roots in long overlooked dental and oral disease.

Why Your Pet’s Dental Health Matters

Bad breath isn’t the only reason to stay on top of your pet’s dental health.

Dental disease is one of the most common preventable health problems seen in pets. Besides a smelly breath, it can lead to bleeding gums, difficulty eating, and loose teeth. It can go as far as causing heart issues if bacteria from an infection in the mouth makes its way into the bloodstream. That’s not to mention very unsightly teeth, and the expense involved when treatment is required. It’s not cute and it’s not cool.

Home Care

Periodontal disease is a natural disease caused by the accumulation of bacterial plaque. The first stage in prevention of periodontal disease is to remove or prevent accumulation of plaque and infection.

The importance of cleaning your pet’s teeth at home should not be underestimated. Home care procedures such as tooth brushing, attention to the type of diet and dental supplements, all have a major part to play in the prevention of plaque build-up.

Tooth Brushing

Tooth brushing is still the best way to clean the teeth, but not always the easiest. Successful tooth brushing should be a fun and pleasant exercise for both the owner and their pet.

Brushing your pet’s teeth is the best way for their mouth to remain clean and healthy for life. Brushing your pet’s teeth two to three times a week will produce good results. It is not recommended to use human pastes, as the high fluoride levels in certain brands may not be suitable to all pets.


Where Do I start If I Want to Brush My Pet’s Teeth?

Brushing your pet’s teeth can be a daunting task if you’ve never done it before. If you decide to brush your pet’s teeth yourself, be patient and persevere.

Just like at bath time, it might take some getting used to for you and your pet, and things might get messy.

Make sure you use toothpaste that is specifically for pets—human toothpaste has a high fluoride level, which can cause an upset stomach in animals.

To brush your pet’s teeth, follow these steps:

  • Have everything ready and on hand. Push the toothpaste or gel into the bristles of the toothbrush to avoid it falling off or being flicked everywhere but inside the mouth.
  • Approach from the side, and hold the muzzle with one hand. Use the thumb to lift the jowl out of the way.
  • Slide the toothbrush in and begin brushing in a circular motion ensuring all teeth and the gum line are brushed.
  • Repeat on the other side.
  • Brush the incisors last. This tickles, and quite often pets will react to these being brushed, so it’s best to leave these until the end so you have a fighting chance of brushing the rest!
  • Approach from the front using one hand to hold the muzzle and using the thumb to lift up the lip. Again, brush in circular motions over the teeth and gum line.
  • You don’t have to open your pet’s mouth too much and you don’t have to worry about brushing the inside of the teeth. The saliva coupled with the tongue action is enough to keep the inside of the teeth relatively clean.

Veterinary Visits and Tooth Cleaning2

Annual or semi-annual veterinary visits are a very important component of good dental health care. Your veterinarian will perform a thorough oral examination noting any gum disease, dental tartar or dental calculus, and tooth abnormalities such as broken or loose teeth.

Even with good home care, most dogs will need yearly tooth cleaning to maintain optimum gum and dental health. Cleaning, performed under general anesthesia, will remove tartar or calculus. Following cleaning, teeth will be polished. In addition, your veterinarian may recommend removal of loose or diseased teeth.


Choosing the Right Type of Food for Your Pet’s Dental Health

Chewing abrasive foods physically cleans the tooth surface, stimulates saliva, maintains muscle tone, supporting bone structure and toughens the gums.

Research3 has shown that dry food helps clean the teeth better than soft canned foods. Wet food tends to stick to teeth and makes a great meal for bacteria to feast on. The abrasive action that dry food has on the teeth helps remove plaque.

You can up your game even further by using a high-quality food that is formulated for dental health. This type of dry food might come in a specialized kibble, the special size and shape of the kibble encouraging chewing to increase super mechanical brushing which helps reduce plaque and tartar build-up.

Chewing dental treats, dental chews and toys is the next best option.


Specialized Ingredients
Many other ingredients may influence positively the oral health of your pet:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids
    Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil and flaxseeds may help combat mouth bacteria and boost oral health. The dental health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids may include antibacterial effects, extending the benefits beyond inflammation, reveals a new study from the University of Kentucky4.


  • Antioxidants
    There is increasing attention given to the potential benefits of antioxidants in the field of dental medicine. Antioxidants may help reduce free-radical or reactive-oxygen species, which are inflammatory factors in the progression of gingival and periodontal diseases. Food containing antioxidants like blueberries, pomegranate, cranberries, apples, blackberries may be very helpful.


  • Vitamin C and Vitamin E
    Vitamin C and E help prevent gum disease by doing two things: reducing inflammation and serving as antioxidants. They have been shown to prevent oral cancers in animal studies5, showcasing their healing powers against oral diseases.


  • Green Tea Extract
    Research6 suggests that green tea extract benefits the oral cavity. This ingredient contains compounds that appear to control inflammation and fight bacterial infection. It is also rich in antioxidants, which have many health properties. Because green tea extract controls bacteria and lowers the acidity of saliva and dental plaque, it may be a useful tool in preventing cavities. Green tea extract has anti-inflammatory powers and seems to help control periodontal (gum) disease. It makes sense that a substance that helps prevent cavities and gum disease will help to keep the teeth in good health. To top it all off, green tea extract has also been associated with better-smelling breath. Why? Likely because it kills the microbes that tend to make your pet’s mouth stinky.


  • Parsley
    Parsley has been shown to have anti-bacterial properties7. Studies have shown that it is also rich in antioxidants. The phytonutrients in parsley can help the overall oral health.


  • Peppermint
    Peppermint has natural antiseptic qualities that may help to fight bacterial growth and prevent infection. It also contains high levels of antioxidants to help the body repair itself, prevent swelling of connective tissues to promote healthy gums, and can even help reduce bleeding after tooth extraction.


  • Sodium Hexametaphosphate
    This compound can provide dental benefits as shown in many canine studies8. Feeding a pet food with proven oral health benefits including sodium hexametaphosphate may be an excellent step taken to improve oral health. Sodium hexametaphosphate is a proven ingredient helping reduce accumulation of plaque and tartar by capturing the extra mouth minerals causing accumulation of plaque and tartar.


  • Mouthwashes and water additives are other good options as these are less invasive home care procedures.

Vetdiet® Dental Health Food for Cats and Dental Health Food for Dogs

Vetdiet® dental health dry food for cats and dental health dry food for dogs feature a specialized kibble. The unique size and shape of the kibble in our dental health foods encourage chewing to help reduce plaque and tartar buildup. Our formulas also contain pea fiber, which creates a brushing-like action to help remove plaque. Additionally, Vetdiet® dental health foods are formulated with sodium hexametaphosphate, which has been shown through research to reduce dental calculus formation in dogs. Finally, ingredients like parsley and peppermint help freshen breath while green tea extract helps to control inflammation and bacterial infections.

Final Words of Advice

If you are unsure about your pet’s oral health, consult with your veterinarian. He or she will be able to fully assess your pet’s oral hygiene. With their help, you can develop a clear action plan with all available options that you feel good about to get your pet the healthiest mouth possible!

About Vetdiet®

Vetdiet is a family owned and operated company with 25 years of success. Our mission is to offer outstanding and innovative pet food products that optimize pet health by creating the perfect balance between science and nature. We always prioritize natural, high quality and proven ingredients to support the health of pets and provide the functional benefits they need. The essence of our products is guided by the diverse knowledge of veterinarians, nutritionists, formulators and pet parents dedicated to health and nutrition, to deliver the right balance of nutrients for lifelong health. With Vetdiet®, you can feed your pet with peace of mind.

Vetdiet®’s Health and Nutrition Advisory Board

This dedicated group of experts, with a passion for the health and well-being of pets, work together to bring new ideas and strategies to Vetdiet® and to solve important challenges. They focus on the areas of health, nutrition, formulation, testing and regulatory compliance and are responsible for approving each Vetdiet® formula, guided by our nutritional philosophy.


1— Proctor, R., Kumar, N., Stein, A., Moles, D. & Porter, S. (2005). Oral and Dental Aspects of Chronic Renal Failure. Journal of Dental Research, 84(3), 199–208.
2- Holmstron, SE, Bellows, J, Juiga, S., Knutson, K., Niemiec, BA, Perrone, J.2013 AAHA Dental Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats: JAAHA; 2013; 49:2: 75–82.
3- Buckley, C., Colyer, A., Skrzywanek, M., Jodkowska, K., Kurski, G., Gawor, J., & Ceregrzyn, M. (2011). The impact of home-prepared diets and home oral hygiene on oral health in cats and dogs. British Journal of Nutrition, 106 (S1), S124-S127.
4- Kesavalu L., Bakthavatchalu V., Rahman M. M, Su J., Raghu B., Dawson D., Fernandes G., and Ebersole J. L. (2007), Omega‐3 fatty acids regulate inflammatory cytokines/mediator messenger RNA expression in Porphyromonas gingivalis‐induced experimental periodontal disease. Oral Microbiology and Immunology, 22 :232–239.
5- Nishida M., Grossi S. G., Dunford R. G., Ho A. W., Trevisan M., Genco R. J. (2000), Dietary vitamin C and the risk for periodontal disease. Journal of Periodontology, 71 (8):1215–1223.
6- Goenka P, Sarawgi A, Karun V, Nigam AG, Dutta S, Marwah N. (2013) Camellia sinensis (Tea): Implications and role in preventing dental decay. Pharmacology Review, 7:152-156.
7- Farzaei M.H, Abbasabadi Z, Ardekani M.R.S, Rahimi R, Farzaei F. (2013), Parsley: a review of ethnopharmacology, phytochemistry and biological activities. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine
8- Stookey G. K., Warrck J. M., Miller L. L. (1995), Effect of sodium hexametaphosphate on dental calculus formation in dogs. American Journal of Veterinary Research, 56(7): 913–918.
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