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Are Canine Dental Bones Really Necessary?

May 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Dog Health and Nutrition

We’ve all laughed at the doggie denture commercial from Pedigree Dentastix, and many of you may be wondering how important special bones are to your dog’s dental health. Here’s our guide to the good, the bad, and the ugly of bones advertised to keep your dog’s teeth in tip-top shape.

First, a little about dental hygiene

All of the special bones designed for dental health claim to limit or control plaque, tartar, and gingivitis. These sound pretty nasty, don’t they? Although dogs don’t often get cavities, they do suffer from gum disease which can cause eventually cause the loss of teeth or even jawbone mass.

What happens is that when a dog eats, small pieces of food can get caught between teeth and along the gumline. When the food particles aren’t removed, they attract bacteria, creating a soft build-up of plaque. Brushing your dog’s teeth at home can help stop the build-up of plaque, removing it before it leads to bigger problems. Left to fester, the plaque begins to calcify within three to five days, turning into tartar which sticks strongly to the dog’s teeth.

Tartar, in turn, irritates the gums causing gingivitis, or a reddened inflammation of the gums. At this point, the problem can only be resolved by a dental professional using those sharp, pointy scalers to scrape the tartar from the gumline.

At this point, the problem becomes even more serious if the tartar isn’t removed. As tartar continues to build up, it invades the gum tissue, separating the gums from the teeth by creating a pocket between them. Bacteria can grow in these pockets, leading to abscesses and loose teeth. The teeth begin to fall out. As the bacteria work their way into the bones of the jaw, they cause infection and even bone loss. Along the way, the bacteria may enter the bloodstream and cause infections in the heart, liver, and kidneys.

The best way to prevent all of this is to catch the problem early, while the soft plaque can be easily removed before it hardens into tartar.

At-home dental care

Revival Animal Health provides a complete line of dental health products for your dog. They carry dental chews, toothbrushes, toothpastes, rinses, and even one of those scalers your dentist likely uses to remove tartar.

The American Kennel Club provides this advice to get your dog used to having his or her teeth brushed:

“If your dog balks at having his teeth brushed, get him used to it by rubbing his teeth and gums with your finger. Then put a little of the toothpaste on your finger and let him sniff and lick it; do the same with the toothbrush.”

To chew or not to chew

If you brush your dog’s teeth daily, chances are you will not need to provide special chews to promote dental health. But if your dog won’t let you brush his or her teeth, of if this is something you just cannot fit into your schedule, you might consider one of the chews designed to removed plaque and tartar.

For example, Greenies brand  claims that an independent test found that dogs who were provided with one Greenies dental chew each day showed a 69% reduction in tartar and a 10.5% reduction in plaque vs. dogs who ate the same food, but didn’t have the Greenies chew.

Virbac makes a product called C.E.T. Oral Hygiene Chews, which contain glucose oxidase to break down the sugars that stick to your dog’s teeth before they can attract bacterial growth. In addition, the abrasive texture helps scrub build-up off of the dog’s teeth.

Petrodex Dental Chews (from Sentry) are a beefhide product soaked in a dual enzyme system that purports to activate your dog’s natural defenses to kill bacteria and remove plaque.

Hill’s Science Diet even makes a product they say enhances dental health because the unique interlocking fiber structure of the food helps scrub teeth to reduce plaque build-up. It also contains calcium and other minerals important for strong, healthy teeth.

The Bottom Line

So, are special dog treats made for dental health really necessary? As with most things, it depends. If you take good care of your dog’s teeth by brushing them every day and providing regular professional oral check-ups, you probably don’t need them. However, if you notice exceptionally bad breath or loose teeth or if your vet tells you your dog has a problem with plaque and tartar, they might be worth a try.

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