New oral healthcare products

Recent innovations in preventive dental care can help control plaque and calculus in pets—in the office or in your clients' homes.


Jan Bellows
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.


Figure 1. Professional application of OraVet while the patient was anesthetized.
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plaque accumulation at the gingival margin1 and doesn't disappear after tooth brushing or eating hard food (G. Pitts: Unpublished data).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 2. Client applying OraVet gel at home.
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.

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.