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How can tartar formation on a dog's teeth be prevented?

My young beagle's teeth accumulate tartar very rapidly. They have already been professionally cleaned once and shortly thereafter the teeth appeared to have significant tartar where his gums looked sore. Is there anything I can to do at home to prevent this?

Dental plaque is a matrix of bacterial and salivary compounds that adhere to the enamel of the teeth. This material mineralizes into calculus (tartar) within a few days of professional teeth cleaning. Once plaque hardens to become calculus, a veterinarian must remove it by manual or electronic scaling.

Brushing the teeth regularly is the major way to prevent the accumulation of plaque on tooth surfaces and in crevices. The mechanical action of the toothbrush above and below the gum line is needed to limit this accumulation. Brushing the pet's teeth is not easy with all pets and is best begun at an early age to familiarize the pet with the process. Since your dog is young, it may be very easy to train to accept this procedure. A veterinarian or technician will offer guidance in the best method of brushing and the best products to use such as toothpastes and brushes. Human toothpastes are not acceptable choices because they should not be swallowed.

Chew toys such as CET chews and rawhide strips, Kong Toys, Nylabones, tartar-preventing foods and rinses or gels are other products employed to limit the accumulation of plaque. Please discuss these preventive strategies with your veterinarian. He or she may recommend another dental procedure to get your dog back to square one with clean teeth.

Please visit our VetCentric Encyclopedia for more information; see "Dental Disease, Canine."