Pearly Whites for Pets

posted July 15th, 2012 by
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by Kiley Roberson

If you thought trying to get your kids to brush their teeth was hard work, try handing the floss to Fido.


Of all the members of your fam­ily, it isn’t hard to guess who has the worst dental hygiene: your pets. They don’t brush or floss their teeth, and this can go on for years. If you want to show your kids what will happen to their teeth if they don’t brush regularly, just look at your pet’s teeth—or worse, smell his bad breath.


According to, 80 percent of dogs over age 3 have some kind of gum disease, and for those adopted from shel­ters, the percentage is almost 100. That number doesn’t even include cats. That’s why Tulsa’s Partnering for Pets had to get involved. The organization donated a den­tal machine to the Tulsa and Owasso ani­mal shelters to make sure the animals at both locations have healthy smiles.


“We have seen pets at the shelters with poor teeth and bad breath, which poten­tially makes them less adoptable,” ex­plained Sherri Griggs with Partnering for Pets. “A prospective pet parent might be hesitant to adopt an animal with tooth de­cay or heavy tartar. If you have ever had tooth pain, you can empathize with an animal that isn’t feeling well and may even be nippy or grumpy.”


Griggs is a volunteer for Tulsa’s Part­nering for Pets. In fact, everyone at the organization is a volunteer. Partnering for Pets is a non-profit organization founded in 2008 and funded entirely by donations and grants from charitable foundations.


Partnering for Pets works mostly with local animal shelters and communities; they also hold adoption events for home­less pets and teach humane education.


“Humane education is targeted to pro­mote responsible pet ownership: reduc­ing the overpopulation of unwanted pets, offering reduced-rate spay/neuter and vaccination service, providing food and shelter for your pet, dog training, groom­ing, and, yes, brushing your pet’s teeth,” said Griggs. “Dental health can make a significant difference in a pet’s well-be­ing, and without such care, gum disease and infection can lead to life-threatening illnesses.”


Periodontal disease is disease around the outside of the tooth. Our (human) dentist reminds us that if we do not reg­ularly brush away plaque on our teeth, it will become tartar. When tartar builds up, it begins to affect the gums. As the dis­ease advances, it damages the ligaments, and eventually the actual bone around the tooth can begin to deteriorate. Bacteria in the mouth can travel through the blood­stream leading to infection in the heart, liver, kidneys or other organs.


All of this is true for your pets, too. But, thanks to Partnering for Pets, the shelter animals in Tulsa and Owasso have some­thing to smile about. The new donated machines polish and clean, scrubbing away dangerous tartar and revealing clean, healthy teeth.


“Dental equipment, or specifically, a simple scaler or polisher helps shelter pets have a little better chance to be adopted,” Griggs explained. “In addition to removing the tartar and polishing the teeth, the electric scaler polisher saves time. Not only will these animals feel so much better without a toothache, but it will help them put their best paw and smiles forward.”


Cathy Pienkos, DVM, with Tulsa Animal Welfare was extremely happy about the donated dental machine. She says the shelter’s first patient was a 4-year-old Sia­mese mix named Jo. Jo came to the shel­ter as a neutered and declawed stray cat with some fairly bad teeth. With the help of the new dental machine, Dr. Pienkos was able to clean Jo’s teeth and during the process found two teeth that required extractions. He recovered well and was moved to adoptions the very next day, where he soon found his forever home.


“This dental machine will greatly im­prove the health of our adopted animals. It will also help us save lives, as we will be able to adopt out more middle aged and older animals,” Dr. Pienkos explained in a thank you letter to Partnering for Pets.


Jo’s story is just the beginning. Now lots of homeless pets in Tulsa and Owasso will get the much needed dental care they de­serve, living longer and healthier lives.

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