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February is dental health month. Toothbrushing did not become a daily human habit in the US until World War II when soldiers were ordered to brush their teeth. Now, if your pet will allow it, I recommend brushing your pets’ teeth once a day with pet toothpaste (whether it is a cat, dog, ferret, or iguana). A variety of different toothbrushes are available: the ones that grownups or toddlers use, finger brushes (brushes that fit over a finger), pick-like toothbrushes, and the electric toothbrush. Read more to find out how to brush your pets’ teeth with an electric toothbrush!
The History of the Toothbrush
Before the toothbrush was invented, people used sticks to clean their teeth. Archaeologists found chewsticks from as early as 3500 BC in Babylon/Mesopotamia as well as in Egyptian and Chinese tombs.
Eventually, people attached animal hair (first hog bristles and later horse hair and badger hair) to the sticks, bones, or ivory to help clean the teeth. Originally from China where dental health was considered important and having white teeth was a sign of beauty, the bristle brushes made their way eastbound. Europeans adopted bristle brushes in the 17th Century.
Dental habits prior to the introduction of bristle brushes were ineffective. Queen Elizabeth I of England (1533-1603) rinsed her mouth with honey or sugar! William Addis of England did not invent the first toothbrush until 1780.
After nylon was invented in the US, in 1939, nylon replaced the animal hairs. Not only do animal hairs trap bacteria, but they also fall out easily and dry slowly.
The first electric toothbrush was invented in Switzerland in 1939. Though more expensive, electric toothbrushes are more effective at removing plaque and preventing gingivitis. I have only met one pet owner who uses an electric toothbrush to brush her pet’s teeth. When I started writing this blog post, I decided to take on the challenge of using an electric toothbrush on my pets, Boo and Penny.
My Pets’ Dental Regime
My cat Boo (born in the fall of 2010) is used to me brushing his teeth. I started when he was a kitten. He is food-driven and thinks of the chicken/beef/seafood-flavored toothpaste as a treat. (Not vanilla-mint – that made him foam at the mouth!) He once stole Penny’s Milk-Bone Brushing Chew treat to chew on.
His favorite thing in the world to eat is dental food, Hill’s t/d. The food keeps his incisors and canines teeth, but he needs a dental prophy to clean his upper carnassial/shearing teeth.
Boo likes to watch me get ready for work in the morning and get ready for bed at night. My routine includes brushing my teeth with an Oral-B electric toothbrush, so he is used to the sound that it makes.
My Yorkie Papillon X dog Penny is younger (born on New Year’s Day, 2017). That said, when I took her home at the age of ten months, she already had dental calculus or tartar. I got her used to the regular toothbrush. I have even flossed her teeth to remove food material between her misaligned incisors! She eats Boo’s t/d and chews on at least one dental treat a day.
Thanks to this dental regime, she now barely has any dental calculus. However, since Penny is timider than Boo, I decided to start the challenge with Boo first. Each pet has his/her own toothbrush head with a different colored ring so that I don’t mix my toothbrush head up with Boo’s or Penny’s.
How I Brushed My Pets’ Teeth with an Electric Toothbrush
I started slow. In the beginning, I used the electric toothbrush to brush Boo’s teeth without turning it on. I found that I liked the electric toothbrush handle better than the regular little toothbrush handle.
Next, I turned it on and touched the spinning head on Boo’s cheek without any toothpaste to get him used to the sensation.
To prevent him from getting stressed, the first session with an electric toothbrush turned on was short. He was surprised by the spinning brush but still compliant. I slowly increased the length of his daily toothbrushing sessions.
Is Brushing My Pets’ Teeth Really Necessary?
I already feed hard food/dental diet/dental treats to my pets. Yes, as you can see from the picture above, Boo’s teeth still need to be cleaned even though he is on the t/d dental diet.
The cats and dogs that grew up on my farm didn’t need their teeth brushed. How do you know? Did you check their teeth?
Now that I brush my pets’ teeth daily with an electric toothbrush, my pets don’t need their teeth cleaned at the vet, right? No, just like us, pets still need a professional dental cleaning at least once a year. Some pets need a professional dental cleaning twice a year. Boo will be going in for one this spring.
Conclusion: You can brush your pets’ teeth with an electric toothbrush!
- Start slow. Get your pet used to you brushing their teeth without the electric toothbrush turned on.
- Then get your pet used to the sound of the electric toothbrush.
- Next, get your pet used to the sensation of the spinning electric toothbrush head.
- Once your pet is used to the sound and sensation of the toothbrush head spinning, try a quick brushing session with the electric toothbrush turned on.
- Slowly increase the length of the brushing session.
Don’t forget to use pet toothpaste and a separate toothbrush head. Replace the toothbrush head when it becomes frayed.
If your pet won’t tolerate the electric toothbrush or prefers a regular toothbrush, that’s okay.
Happy #DentalHealthMonth! Please share this blog post with other pet lovers!
Check out another dental blog post: a review of different dental chews on the market for dogs 🐶