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My mom swears by a water additive that claims to help with dental care (similar to Healthy Mouth, just a different brand).

They're not something I know a lot about, but I do know that my cat has some issues with tartar in his mouth and the like. I have tried brushing his teeth, but that is a very difficult process, and I was wondering if something like this would work instead.

Is it a viable alternative? Does it have actual benefits? Is it something I should be giving to my cat?

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The Veterinary Oral Health Council

exists to recognize products that meet pre-set standards of plaque and calculus (tartar) retardation in dogs and cats. Products are awarded the VOHC Seal of Acceptance following review of data from trials conducted according to VOHC protocols. The VOHC does not test products itself.

Their protocols seem reasonably strict (a large part of my job is experimental design), and their list of approved products is relatively small (whether that's because they turn down some applications or because the industry doesn't pay attention is not really clear). I would estimate that any product that they've approved would be at least "best in class" for promoting oral health.

There is only one company with water additive products approved by the VOHC, HealthyMouth and their cat:essential. This product is approved for plaque removal, but not tartar. VOHC defines the difference as:

Plaque: The soft, bacteria-rich layer that rapidly forms on the surface of the teeth if the teeth are not frequently chewed or brushed clean.

Tartar: Calcium salts secreted in saliva that are deposited on the surface of the teeth as a hard substance that is resistant to removal by chewing or brushing.

However, the criticisms of the studies used for VOHC approval of this product noted that the experiments have not been peer reviewed, randomized, and or conducted blind (a term that means the people running the test knew which set of animals was getting each treatment, so may have (even accidentally) affected the results).

Dr. Fraser Hale, DVM, FAVD, DiplAVDC Board-Certified Veterinary Dental Specialist, remarks:

My assessment (and that of the VOHC) is that, while there are no miracle products out there, healthymouth™ water additives and topical gels may be a valuable tool in the ongoing effort to maintain good oral hygiene and periodontal health when used as part of a comprehensive oral care program.

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Just speaking from personal experience. I used the TropiClean brand water additive and it worked to help get rid of my cat's tartar build-up.

I say it helped, because I also had the gel toothpaste that I tried to brush his teeth with every once in a while. So I can't really say it was effective by itself, but, considering that the tartar went away and I wasn't really that successful with brushing his teeth that often, I think it was worth getting.

As a bonus, I still use it fairly often to keep both of their teeth clean. Since they both like to get up in my face, it's nice having their breath not smell so much like cat food.

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