Compliance With At-Home Dental Care

Brenda L. Mulherin, DVM, DAVDC, Iowa State University

ArticleLast Updated April 20243 min read
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In the Literature

Svärd J, Enlund KB. Adherence to dental home care in dogs with periodontitis: a post-treatment survey. Acta Vet Scand. 2023;65(1):59. doi:10.1186/s13028-023-00718-6

The Research …

Over 80% of dogs have signs of periodontal disease by 3 years of age.1 Periodontal disease is a multifactorial condition primarily characterized by inflammation of the periodontium, which comprises the structures that attach the teeth to the jaw, including the gingiva, periodontal ligament, cementum, and alveolar bone.2,3 Plaque is the mixture of microorganisms on the tooth surface that combine with food particles and enzymes secreted by bacteria in the saliva.3,4 Bacterial antigens stimulate an immune response that breaks down the periodontium.4 Because plaque causes periodontal disease, reducing plaque accumulation on the tooth surface (eg, via daily tooth brushing) can help lessen the severity of periodontitis.3

In this study, pet owners (n = 36) in Sweden whose dogs had been diagnosed with and treated for periodontitis and who were provided instructions for tooth brushing were surveyed about dental home care routines, as well as perceptions, attitudes, and motivation regarding dental care. Of all owners, 41% reported they brushed their dog’s teeth before receiving a recommendation to do so, and 51% started brushing when it was recommended following dental treatment. All respondents acknowledged the importance of dental health, with 81% reporting they would consider brushing their dog’s teeth daily. Compared with the general population, owners demonstrated more commitment to dental home care following professional dental treatment. Owners who brushed their dog’s teeth daily or almost daily reported their primary motivation was to prevent further dental problems and promote their dog’s well-being.

Many owners (64%) reported difficulty brushing their dog’s teeth, with nearly one-third finding it very difficult. Owners who did not begin brushing or attempted and then stopped brushing cited reasons that included ineffectiveness and difficulty; owners also lacked knowledge regarding alternative strategies for implementing a successful home care regimen, particularly in uncooperative dogs.

… The Takeaways

Key pearls to put into practice:

  • Efforts should be made to educate and motivate owners who are interested in providing daily dental care (see Suggested Reading). A home care regimen should be instituted for dogs that have been diagnosed with periodontitis following a professional dental cleaning. Owners are more likely to continue brushing their dog’s teeth once a routine has been established.

  • Assisting owners with daily tooth brushing concerns during follow-up visits can improve compliance. Providing individualized home care plans can help owners navigate potential difficulties of instituting home care for their dog.

  • Gradual toothbrush introduction and incorporating dental home care in nonmedical aspects of pet ownership (eg, puppy classes, obedience training) may reduce apprehension and increase owner and patient compliance.