As a small-animal practitioner, you spend a good portion of your day diagnosing and treating periodontal disease. Unfortunately,
due to differences in salivary pH, our patients accumulate plaque and develop calculus five times faster than people. Research
shows that 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show signs of gingival disease by the age of 3 according to the American Veterinary
Dental Society. Periodontal disease can cause halitosis and pain and may be related to kidney and heart disease.
In the office, veterinarians and technicians perform small animal dental care and encourage owners to brush their pets' teeth
daily to decrease plaque accumulation. Although daily brushing is a noble idea, it's rarely attempted or properly accomplished
by the average pet owner at home. While two-thirds of clients understand the importance of pet dental care, only 20% attempt
to brush their pets' teeth and only 2% brush with enough frequency to maintain proper oral health, according to a 2001 Gallup
survey. The roadblocks to brushing include the pet's reluctance to have a brush placed in its mouth, the pet owner's frustration
with brush and finger positioning, and the lack of a sanitary way to store the brush when finished.
Fortunately, the veterinary industry has responded by introducing several innovative oral hygiene options to help veterinarians
and pet owners control plaque—the initiator of periodontal disease. I will describe a few of those new products here.
OraVet™ (Merial) is a unique oral hygiene product that helps prevent plaque accumulation in cats and dogs. The OraVet gel
provides a protective coating on the pet's teeth that decreases plaque accumulation at the gingival margin1
and doesn't disappear after tooth brushing or eating hard food (G. Pitts: Unpublished data). The gel is odorless, tasteless,
and invisible once applied. OraVet can be used in every professional teeth-cleaning procedure in dogs and cats beginning with
their first oral hygiene visit and throughout the pet's life.
Figure 1. Professional application of OraVet while the patient was anesthetized.
The veterinarian or technician applies the professional-grade product along the marginal gingiva of clean, dry teeth while
the animal is anesthetized (Figure 1). According to the manufacturer, the gel electrostatically adheres to the tooth's enamel and cementum (teeth are inherently
negatively charged, while the gel is positively charged). To maintain the protective coating, pet owners apply a small amount
of the home-care product to the maxillary teeth and gingiva once a week using their fingers or the provided applicator (Figure 2). Once applied, the gel creates an invisible barrier to reduce the formation of plaque and calculus. In two independent studies
conducted by board-certified veterinary dentists, plaque decreased 22% to 46% over an eight-week period compared with controls
(client-owned patients, as well as laboratory subjects).2 Tooth brushing is still encouraged for maximum plaque prevention.
Figure 2. Client applying OraVet gel at home.
OraVet's plaque prevention system allows veterinarians and pet owners to work together to improve pets' oral health. "In my
experience, this technology substantially reduces plaque and calculus. We've found good client compliance with the home-care
version of the dental sealant because pet owners are increasingly placing value on good oral health. Another advantage to
using a product like this is that our clients are getting their pets' mouths open for examination on a weekly basis. This
keeps my clients interested in plaque-control programs of all kinds," says Tom Klein, DVM, adjunct clinical professor of dentistry
at The Ohio State University School of Veterinary Medicine in Columbus.