Gum disease is like a 4 legged stool. The legs that drive this disease are as follows: genetics, microbiome, diet and daily hygiene practices.
1. Diet. Raw is increasing in popularity and it makes sense for dog’s in many ways. The risks of that include that there is a higher burden of enteric bacteria on raw foods and there is a lack of appreciation for the fact that there are still carbohydrates in a raw diet – not processed, which is great, but carbs still feed the bacteria that are most inflammatory for the gums. Our suggestion is to focus on green leafy vegetables and legumes for carbohydrates/fibers (limit the potato, chickpea, yams, etc.) and then organs + muscle from animals not exposed to antibiotics or pesticides. Of note, bone marrow contains simple sugars so be mindful to limit bones to only a few times a week, at most. Stay away from sugary fruits such as apple, pear, banana, strawberries, etc. Blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are great.
2. Genetics. Nothing you can do here. Your pup was born with mom and dad’s genetic contributions. There are mutations that are linked to inflammation and susceptibility to chronic inflammatory diseases such as gum disease. Diet and daily hygiene practices can counteract the genetic predispositions that may exist.
3. Microbiome. Same as genetics, the microbiome of your pup is inherited from mom. If she had gum disease then your pup’s chances of developing it are significantly higher. Antibiotic and antiseptic exposure and diet are the most significant influences on your pup’s microbiome. Based on who lives in the mouth and [especially] below the gumline directly influences your pup’s immune activity. The problem? Too many bad actors or good actors behaving badly due to a high carbohydrate diet, leads to local inflammation in the gum tissue. Persistence of this microbial community equates to chronic inflammation, which causes leaky gums and leads to tissue destruction (namely the periodontal ligament) that holds the tooth in place.
Our approach is to sugar-starve the harmful bacteria with a patented plant-based fiber and then to grow the beneficial bacteria that downregulate the inflammation through the use of the vitamin B6 and amino acid prebiotics. While there are plenty of approaches on the market that work as an antiseptic (coconut, cetylpyridinium chloride, triclosan, alcohol), they are not able to select for good vs bad and wipe out the good.
While you can use our approach in conjunction with your favorite dental chew or water additive, the harshness of the antiseptics make it much harder for our approach to work – we want the protective bacteria to actually grow. We therefore recommend that TEEF be the only water additive used in your pup’s mouth.
4. Dental Hygiene Practices. Regular toothbrushing with TEEF! water is the best and safest approach. Physical removal of plaque and tartar from the tooth is a good thing. The problem is that the majority of the problem lies below the gumline, where a toothbrush cannot reach. Approaches that involve herbal or plant-based oils have difficulty penetrating the gum tissue or dental plaque deep in the pockets and so they do not work; that is why we only use water-based nutrients (bacteria always eat, even way down in the gum tissue).
Another overlooked, but vital aspect to good dental hygiene is the importance of washing the water and food bowls EVERY WEEK. Bacteria and fungus from the air fall into your pup’s dishes and they grow rapidly due to all the nutrients, which means that they are the vector for continual exposure of potentially harmful bacteria to your pup.
Also overlooked, at least once a month, put those well-used, durable chew toys through the washing machine or dishwasher, to clean them.
Hope this helps!
Dr. Stein holds a Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of California at Berkeley where she studied signaling pathways involved in stress response and community development in bacteria and received her B.S. in Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Iowa where she studied the interaction between M. tuberculosis and innate immune cells. She founded Primal Health, LLC to focus on improving the quality of life and longevity of both humans and animals by producing innovative, consumable and safe dental hygiene products. Their patented prebiotic technology centers on re-engineering disease-causing bacterial biofilms into those that are health-promoting.