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Periodontal disease affects the structures surrounding otherwise healthy teeth.

It occurs in over 85% of dogs over three years of age. Home care involving regular cleaning of the teeth is the best way to prevent periodontal disease and thus the possible loss of many otherwise healthy teeth.

Consider how your teeth would look and feel if you failed to brush them every day. Your dog's teeth are really no different. Unless you regularly provide some form of dental care at home there is a very great possibility that periodontal disease will occur. Ideally it is preferable to train your dog to accept the procedure when a puppy but even elderly dogs can be trained to accept and even enjoy the procedure.

Dogs, unlike people, have a fairly long, flexible tongues and therefore it is not quite so important to brush the lingual, or inside, surfaces of the teeth since these are rubbed fairly vigorously by the tongue and consequently the build up of tartar on these tooth surfaces is considerably less than we experience.

How do I start to train my dog?

The procedure should be made as pleasurable as possible. For the first few days simply hold your dog as you normally do when petting him. Pet him particularly around the head and use treat rewards and lots of praise. Do this especially at your pet's meal time since for a healthy dog is the most pleasurable part of the day. You are going to utilize this to encourage dental home care compliance.

Your veterinary practice will supply a special toothbrush designed for use in your dog's mouth. Initially dip this in your pet's dinner or in some meaty tidbit, for example pate, and brush this on the outside of the teeth holding the jaws shut and inserting the brush gently between the lips with the bristles against the teeth at an angle of approximately 45 degrees to the tooth and gum surface. Gently rub the bristles against both the teeth and the gums. If necessary let the dog consume some of his meal in between brushing sessions.

Most people find their dogs will tolerate the cheek teeth being cleaned before they are happy to allow you to clean the front teeth or incisors. Once your pet is used to having the outside of the teeth cleaned in this way, it may be possible for you to venture into the mouth to clean the inside surfaces. To do this you have to hold the dog's head up as high as possible and then gently open his mouth. If you can hold a finger or your thumb pressed against the roof of the mouth, this will prevent him from shutting his mouth. However as previously stated this procedure is not as important as cleaning the buccal or outside surfaces of the teeth.

If you find you are unable to carry out these procedures, do not despair. Today there are special foods that have been formulated to help with tooth cleaning and there are also gels and other antiseptic solutions that can be applied on a daily basis.

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