Explaining the role of nutrition in dental health

The phrase “food be thy medicine” can apply to preventive dental healthcare. Commercial diets specifically designed to retard the accumulation of plaque and calculus are especially helpful if the owner is unable or unwilling to brush a pet’s teeth. These preventive diets work by mechanical (abrasion) and/or nonmechanical (chemical) mechanisms. The “kibble” can be larger in size or have a unique texture that mechanically cleans the surface of the tooth or coats it in an “anticalculus” agent.84

Although many products make this claim, only those that have been accepted by the VOHC have met preset standards of doing so. The VOHC helps veterinarians and owners choose effective products to help decrease the accumulation of plaque and/or calculus. AAHA supports the scientific methodology employed by the VOHC. The VOHC website can be a useful resource for guiding clients and the veterinary care team to help understand product label claims.

When appropriate, many clinicians encourage pet owners to select complete and balanced “dental” diets as the lifelong source of nutrition for the pet. As with any recommendation, practitioners should evaluate compliance and efficacy for the individual patient during subsequent examinations.

Offering supplemental treats to pets can be an important part of the human–animal bond. However, choosing treats that support oral health is also helpful. There is a broad array of treats that have been accepted by the VOHC to decrease plaque and calculus accumulation. The Guidelines Task Force believes that there is not a strong rationale for offering hard treats (antlers, synthetic, or natural bones) that could damage the structural integrity of the tooth, ultimately leading to unnecessary pain and infection for the pet. Consider using this handout to teach clients how to select dental products for their pets.