Safe, Natural Alternatives to Expensive and Invasive Dental Cleanings
Safe and Natural Alternatives to Avoid Expensive and Invasive Dental Cleanings
Lately I have been answering a lot of questions about holistic dental health. Often times my clients have been talked down to, harassed, ignored and accused of being a ‘bad’ pet parent when the topic of dental health comes up at a veterinary clinic.
Veterinarians often push anesthetic dental cleanings as the only answer to oral health. Prices for these procedures have also increased 2-3 times what they were 5 years ago. Estimates average around $1000 in my area. Some families cannot afford such a huge bill and other families wonder if the whole procedure is actually needed – or if its just a way for clinics to make money.
Every day I educate clients to evaluate their pet’s teeth and we discuss the importance of oral health. My goal is to teach pet parents and spread the news about natural and holistic alternatives.
Your pet’s dental health is incredibly important. Dental disease can be painful, put long-term stress on the immune system and spread infection to other parts of the body, such as the heart.
Below I have explained the common alternatives that we use to prevent and treat dental disease. My clients also ask me about products that are safe and non-toxic, so I have included some product links to make the journey to healthy pet mouths a little bit easier.
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1. Dental Gels
Although I don’t recommend long-term use, dental gels can be helpful at tamping down an abscess type infection when the immune system is in a state of overload.
Signs of immune overload in cases of dental disease include:
- Lack of appetite
- Enlarged salivary lymph nodes
Dental gels should be applied 2-3 times a day for a period of at least 14 days. Treatments should occur at least 1 hour before or after a meal.
Sometimes q-tips, long cotton-tipped applicators or gauze pads can be helpful at applying these gels. I recommend applying the gel as directly as possible to only the most affected places and not trying to apply to the entire mouth because your pet may greatly object to these treatments – making it even more challenging to treat.
Dental gels work by physically killing bacteria in infected tissues. Some products use herbal extracts while others use enzymes.
I like the idea of toothpaste for dogs and the philosophy sounds great. Unfortunately, like toothpaste for humans, many pet toothpastes are full of potentially toxic ingredients such as silica, animal digest, titanium dioxide, and chlorhexidine. Avoid these ingredients and choose a safer product below. With my small dogs, I put a small amount of flavored paste onto a bristle brush or specially signed tooth cleaning chew toy and they enjoy chomping on the brush at different angles for approximately 60-90 seconds. Flavors include chicken, beef, vanilla mint, and salmon.
Toothbrushes for pets come in all shapes and sizes. They range from tiny little nubs on silicone to 3D sculptures to full-blown ultrasonic and rotational devices. Your selection just needs to be based on what will work for you and your pup. I think dental health is so important that you should try at least two types, or even easier…grab a variety pack and let the fun begin!
4. Coconut Oil
As the world continues to investigate coconut oil’s “magic” properties, the more we learn about this superfood. Coconut oil is antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and anti-inflammatory. Rubbing a small amount of high-quality oil on teeth and gums can fight dental disease. Additionally, coconut oil can also be added to your dog’s meals to gain other benefits like boosting the immune system, protecting the nervous system, decreasing anxiety and improving skin and coat.
I’ll admit, I didn’t initially jump to the thought of homeopathic remedies for oral health. But after some experience, I have found that these safe alternatives can be very effective at reducing pain, stimulating healing of gums and even addressing weird bumps or sensitivities.
While I believe that probiotics are great to add to your dogs diet on a regular basis, these particular blends are specially designed to target oral and dental health. We often don’t think about it, but our pet’s teeth and mouth are a barrier to their body and are designed to be populated with a beneficial microbe system. If this balance is thrown off by chemicals, inappropriate foods or illness it can result in significant dental disease. Probiotic blends designed specifically for oral health can bring back the good guys with species that have been proven to increase oral tissue.
Sometimes we forget about the benefit of health supplements that benefit oral health. But when we think about all of the involvement of enzymes, normal flora, the immune system and mucous membrane surface area its easy to realize that supplements can have a major/huge/gigantic impact for our doggie friends. Supplements can give the immune system the tools to gobble up infection, strengthen dental ligaments or reduce swelling and gingivitis.
8. Dental Chews and Chew Toys
Companies have developed a sly marketing strategy by making hundreds of “dental” treat bones that make pet parents think they are cleaning their dog’s teeth. Chew treats are often green in color and shaped like a toothbrush. They frequently contain ingredients like wheat, potatoes, rice and corn – which are all simple carbohydrates AKA sugar. Most chew treats last a minute or two and are too soft to remove tartar and calculus. I don’t’ normally recommend commercial dental chews because they have little to no effect on dental health. Instead, I recommend natural foods and products that provide longer chew times and are minimally processed.
9. Herbal Supplements
Herbs are powerful protectors of dental health and they are mother nature’s gift against doggie bad breath. Healers have used these easy to find herbs for centuries. They can be applied as a tea, paste, tincture or fed in food. Give these winners a try to boost your pup’s wellness today!
We see the best results when families take a multiangle approach to treating dental disease naturally. Just like humans, dogs are all unique and will respond to different products. Take a moment to share this article with your family and friends. Also if you need a complete holistic nutrition plan to manage your pet’s dental health, head on over to our online nutritional consultations. One of the most common issues that I deal with is anxiety and I know how to help your pet using holistic medicine and appropriately selected food.
Sending you all peace, ~ Dr. Candy
Frequently Asked Questions about Pet Dental Health
When is a complete anesthetic dental cleaning recommended?
If your pet has any of the following signs and symptoms then a full anethetic cleaning may be warranted:
- Gums that bleed easily
- Extremely foul smelling breath
- Blood or copious saliva
- Pain while eating
- Chewing food on one side only
- Fractured teeth with root exposure
What are some tips if my pet DOES need a complete anesthetic dental cleaning procedure?
- Talk with your veterinarian before and after the procedure so that you fully understand your dog’s dental health status and recommended post-operative care.
- Do not allow other medicines or vaccines to be administered on the same day as the anesthetic cleaning.
- Prioritize tooth extraction over “fillings”, root canals or other “tooth saving” approaches. Root canals can be painful, often do not remove all infection and have a high risk for complications later. If a tooth is infected or damaged to a certain point….just have it extracted – it is better to remove the infection and then not worry about it. Bonus Tip – unless your dog is a show dog, movie actor or famous oral health model – in these celebrity events you should consult a veterinary dental specialist.
- Schedule to be with your dog for the 24-48 hours post procedure to closely observe for any complications and allow your dog to completely recover from anesthesia, heal gums, have access to water and relaxation and companionship during healing and vulnerability.
- Pay close attention or modify diet for the 5-7 days post cleaning. Keep food soft and bland. If using kibble – be sure to soak it for at least 12 hours. Dogs will usually be fine and will crunch kibble the next day after a dental – however this extra step can really support the full healing of fragile mouth and gum tissue.
- Do not feed your dog a so-called “prescription” dental diet. There is little to no evidence that proves those kibbles to be effective and the logical equation of using hard high-carb diets to promote dental health is like feeding your family cookies to “brush their teeth”.
What about the controversy of antibiotics?
Some dental surgeons state that there is a low potential for oral antibiotics to arrive in high enough concentrations to effect deep infections. In veterinary medicine, we do acknowledge the challenge of achieving elimination of deep infection within dense and boney type tissues.
Some doctors always use antibiotics no matter the severity / intensity of the dental procedure. In practice I have seen both sides of this debate. I believe that the temporary use of antibiotics, whether before a dental, during a procedure, or post operatively can be beneficial in some situations. I have observed the benefit of intraoperative injectable antibiotics with pets that have high levels of infections and gum disease. I can imagine that LOTS of pathogenic bacteria can be dislodged by a dental cleaning and some of these bacteria move directly into the blood stream. With the utilization of intraoperative injectable antibiotics, we can have a chance to kill bacteria before those bad bugs have a chance to colonize other tissues like the heart or spleen.
I am usually pretty conservative with my decision to recommend antibiotics, but do not hesitate to use them if truly needed. I follow every course of antibiotics with a 1-3 month administration of probiotics as well as prebiotics.
See more information about probiotics HERE.
What about these anesthesia free dental cleanings?
Anesthetic free dentals are procedures that are performed by veterinarians and technicians while your dog is awake. The goal is to keep your dog extremely calm to allow a scraping of tartar and calculus on the outside surface of teeth and follow with a polish. Anesthesia free dental cleaning represent one approach to dental care that is lower risk, less invasive and potentially lesser cost. In my experience, only a small percentage of dogs would match well with this course of treatment – perhaps 5-10%. These procedures are great for dogs that are:
- Low stress / low anxiety
- Strong general health
- Little to no gingivitis
- Strong Immune system
- Little to no gum recession
- No pockets of grey infection
- No exposed tooth roots
Some possible disadvantages to anesthesia free dentals include:
- Deep scratches in enamel which will hold more tartar more quickly.
- Potential release of infection from the mouth to other tissues.
- Uncovering of significant dental disease which will require an anesthetic procedure.
What treatment will give my dog with moderate to severe dental disease the best outcome?
- Undergo a complete anesthetic dental cleaning procedure to “start with a clean slate” and follow up with these less invasive and safer dental alternatives as maintenance.
- Strengthen immune system and oral health with these alternatives and an individualized nutrition and supplement program for 6 months. Then perform thorough bloodwork and pursue a complete anesthetic dental cleaning followed by a more natural approach to maintenance.
- Understand that complete resolution of dental disease without an anesthetic procedure will encompass a large variety of dental alternatives and a very strict routine for home dental care responsibilities.
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The term “holistic” is a broad term that is often associated with multiple models of medicine or healing. In general, Dr. Candy Akers follows the basic belief that medicine should address the underlying cause of disease and not just treat the symptoms. This occurs by supporting your pet’s natural ability to heal and restoring the body balance. Conventional medicine often follows a different path of just treating signs or symptoms of the particular disease appearance.
Disease manifests in our pets as a result of an internal unbalance. These imbalances of normal health result from various insults or toxins encountered during modern life. Support for your pets’ body can be in various modalities such as supplements, herbs, nutrition, homeopathy, detoxification, chiropractic adjustments and acupuncture.
Dr. Akers takes an integrated approach to veterinary medicine, combining both holistic medicine and traditionally trained modern Western medicine. She uses conventional medical treatments to reduce or eliminate symptoms and pain during the healing process while supporting the body with more natural and less invasive alternative treatments. This combination improves your pet’s quality of life, longevity and whole health.