February is National Pet Dental Health Month! If left untreated, plaque and tartar buildup can lead to painful periodontal disease. As with many health issues, prevention is the best medicine.

Here are some ways you can take a proactive role in keeping your pet’s teeth healthy.

  • Brush their teeth! It might take patience and practice, and some treats or rewards, but eventually it can even turn into a bonding experience. Make sure to use toothpaste that’s safe for pets. Brush gently for 30 seconds on each side of their mouth at least every other day.
  • Dental treats, toys and food: While not as effective as teeth brushing, products that are specifically designed to promote oral health are a good alternative. Check for the Seal of Acceptance from the Veterinary Oral Health Council to ensure the product meets the standards for effective plaque and tartar control.
  • Regular dental exams: Just like humans, pets need to have their teeth and gums checked by a vet once or twice a year. A basic dental exam can usually be done without sedation, unless your pet becomes aggressive or they are in pain.
  • Diet: Overall health begins with a good diet, but many dental health problems can be caused by malnutrition. Ask your vet for recommendations if your pet has nutrition issues that need to be addressed.

Keeping your pet’s teeth and gums healthy has tremendous benefits—some studies have shown that maintaining oral health can add up to five years to your pet’s life.