How often should your pet brush?

Published 4:11 pm Monday, August 1, 2011

By DR. FRED SELF / Veterinarian

If you talk to your dentist, he would likely encourage you to brush your teeth after each meal and before bed. He would probably discourage you from chewing ice and sticks or anything else as hard. This is good advice. Our teeth are important to us for smiling and for eating.

Our pets also need good dental care. For them, it is more difficult to accomplish, because their teeth are used for eating, playing, picking things up and other tasks for which we rely on our hands.

There are two types of teeth. Brachyodont, teeth that grow to a given size and shape, and hypsodont, teeth that continue to grow for the life of the animal. Both types have their own benefits and weaknesses.

Brachyodont teeth work well because they reach a size and shape and stop growing so as not to damage the soft tissue of the mouth and provide multiple surfaces that can cut, rip or tear. The negative for the brachyodont tooth is, if damaged, it cannot regrow portions of itself.

Hypsodont teeth have the benefit of continuously renewing themselves. Their downsides are that they can only pull or grind and when worn they have rough edges that cut gums and lips.

Cats and dogs have brachyodont teeth. That works for them if they have to catch and kill their food. They have grasping tools and tools to cut prey. This dental style allows pets the opportunity to chew hard substances.

In order to keep their teeth in good shape for a lifetime, it is important to restrict their ability to chew hard objects. It is also a good idea to start brushing their teeth at an early age. By brushing their teeth, we reduce tartar and bacterial buildup and prevent gum loss and tooth root abscesses.

Horses, rabbits, goats and rodents have hypsodont teeth. Because they tend to feed on plant matter that has to be ground up, renewable teeth are important. Without proper care, these teeth soon grind down to sharp points that can rip apart the lips and tongue.

In the case of some rodents, they grow through the roof of the mouth. Owners of these pets do not have to brush but they do have to float teeth. Floating teeth is the process of grinding down the tips of teeth to an acceptable level.

Regardless of which type of teeth you have to take care of, it is very important to maintain a healthy smile.

Dr. Fred Self is a veterinarian at Shelbiana Animal Clinic in Columbiana, along with Dr. Charles Thornburg. You can reach them at 669-7717.