Pet Lover Geek: Fight Stinky Dog Breath & Prevent Gum Disease

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Did you know that 80% of dogs show signs of gum disease by the age of 3? Lorien gets geeky with Dr. Emily Stein, the CEO and inventor of TEEF! by Primal Health. Learn about what really effects your dog's dental hygiene and how you can prevent gum disease.






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00:02  Lorien Clemens

Hello, pet lover! I’m Lorien Clemens and today on Pet Lover Geek, powered by PetHub, we are discovering why your pup’s breath doesn’t smell like flowers and how you can maintain positive dental hygiene for your dog.

Bad breath, swollen or bloody gums, loss of appetite -- all these are signs of canine gum disease. Sadly, gum disease is one of the most common health problems for dogs; by the age of 3, over 80 percent -- yeah, you hear me right -- 80 percent of dogs show  early signs of gum disease. While it may be common, it is certainly not normal or healthy for a dog to suffer from gum disease.

Severe gum problems can lead to cancers, heart problems, kidney problems, diabetes -- dental health is simply vital to your dog’s overall quality of life.

So today, I am really excited. We are going to be talking with Dr. Emily Stein, the CEO and inventor of one of the coolest products on the market and it battles gum disease and will change the dental hygiene game for your dog.

It's called TEEF! and it's by Primal Health. It uses patented science that selectively favors health-promoting bacteria to flourish in your pet’s mouth, while disrupting those dangerous bacteria that cause the gum disease.

Now, stay tuned because we are going to dive into all things dental health with Dr. Stein!

01:37 Lorien Clemens

Alright, today we are talking to Dr. Emily Stein, the CEO and inventor of TEEF! by Primal Health. Dr. Stein has years of experience improving the quality of life and longevity of both humans and animals by producing innovative, consumable and safe dental hygiene products. With a Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of California at Berkeley, she has patented prebiotic technology that centers on re-engineering disease-causing bacterial biofilms into those that are health-promoting.

Welcome to the show Dr. Stein, it is so great to have you here! Okay, for starters, bacteria. You know a lot of us are germophobs -- we're like ew bacteria! But there is good bacteria and there is bad bacteria, and I would love it if you could talk about those two and how they directly impact health?

02:26 Dr. Emily Stein

Absolutely. So, let's start with the good ones first, and then we will lead to the bad. The good ones actually help direct how we eat, help take care of our immune system, help protect our barrier function in our mount and in our guts, teach our immune system what foreign is, and really protect against the bad and harmful bacteria. So you really want to load your body and your pet's bodies up with as many good as possible.

Over time, or with antibiotic exposure or antiseptic exposure which are really harsh chemicals -- (laughs) my dog is going to start going nuts -- the bad start to take over and they have a lot of different mechanisms to arm themselves and actually start to become predominant in us as we age, and they will start to crowd out the beneficial ones over time. Microbiologists, we call this dysbiosis. It's an imbalance where you end up growing too many  harmful and you don't have enough protective bacteria to take care of you anymore. That dysbiosis very strongly drives many chronic inflammatory diseases.

03:58 Lorien Clemens

Right, now let me understand. I want to make sure. When we are talking about gum disease, we are taking about a purely bacterial-based disease?

04:06 Dr. Emily Stein


04:07 Lorien Clemens

Is that right? Okay, so we talked about all those different things it can cause, those long-term implications of poor dental hygiene. We aren't talking about missing one or two teeth brushings. What are we talking about?

04:21 Dr. Emily Stein

Yeah, so what's going on below the gum line -- all of this stuff is going on below the gum line. There is an entire microbial community in the gum tissue, deep down there, that you can't reach by tooth brush, that your vet can't dental clean away. That is what can lead to inflammation and the recruitment of immune cells there below the gum line that then start attacking your own tissue.

I spent 7 years as a rheumatology research fellow at Stanford after my PhD on microbial side of thing, and so many chronic inflammatory diseases actually have a microbial component. So too many bad not enough good is a theme that is in joint disease, and periodontal disease is an example of a joint disease. What happens is the immune system and the bacteria work together -- the harmful ones -- work together to really start to deteriorate and break down that ligament, called the periodontal ligament, which holds the tooth in place.

So lose teeth is actually a risk factor of pre-mature death in humans and in dogs. For every tooth that gets extracted in humans and dogs, it shortens our life spans. So in humans we can lose about 10 years off of our lifespan if we have gum disease; in dogs it is up to a third of their lifespan can be lost so far. So it is a big deal.

And it does so many other things because the bacteria can go inside once they really invade that tissue, and you have leaky gums due to the inflammation and they will escape into the bloodstream. In the case of my grandmother, she had a stroke after her tooth was extracted. That is why I really started doing this about 12 years ago. And then when I rescued my rescue dog who had severe periodontal disease, her gum disease had spread to her bloodstream. So I had 36 hours to save her life after I rescued her. So it's a significant issue.

In cats it is linked to chronic kidney disease. There are so many things that the health or disease status of the mouth is linked to. Either wellness and longevity and an easier and happier life, or it is linked to the opposite which is disease and lots of vet visits and premature death.

06:53 Lorien Clemens

Wow. It sounds kind of gloom and doomy but at the same time it's not that you can't prevent it. This is something that is completely preventable, so let's talk about that. Let's talk about the things pet parents can do to maintain that proper dental health in their dogs. Let's break it all down. How does diet impact it? You know, raw diet is the big thing now. But we have heard for years that kibble helps with teeth health and all these things, like low carb diets -- all of these different diets that are out there. Let's start with that and how it starts with the food that you put in.

07:25 Dr. Emily Stein

Yeah, absolutely. So first thing's first, I would say water. Drinking water actually starts to remove a lot of those waste products that bacteria secrete which causes inflammation and causes the recruitment of those immune cells in to the gums. So just by simply having your dog drink fresh water everyday, wash that water water bowl. Just like you don't want drink out of a glass that has been hanging out for a couple of days, you know, it is really important to hand wash that dog bowl regularly with soap and water. That is the easiest preventative thing you can do.

The second thing is food. Very many brands of dog food are latent with carbohydrates: chickpeas, squash, you know, potato, sweet potato. All of that is chalked full with carbohydrate, and carbohydrate is actually eaten preferably by the bacteria in the mouth of dogs and humans. So they easily convert that into things called organic acids which really cause inflammation and causes gums to become leaky. So that is what I am trying to focus on stopping. The more you can actually provide a high-fiber and low-carbohydrate and high-protein diet for your dogs, the better.

On the raw side of things, you know, granted there is a lot less -- usually in a lot of raw food there is not a lot of rice or corn or wheat, but there are some things that have carbohydrates; and bone marrow actually is rich in simple carbohydrates. So a lot of folks don't realize that it is an easier digestible sugar source for these bacteria. So even a dog eating a raw diet can get dental disease. So that is a common myth that I have had to debunk over time.

These bacteria are really crafty, you know! They smell out sugar. They are bigger sugar lover than most children I think.

09:41 Lorien Clemens

I might give them a run for their money -- I love my sugar. Now you mentioned that it all happens below the gum line which is like then why am I bothering brushing my dog's teeth?

09:49 Dr. Emily Stein

(Laughs) That is a controversial one. Believe it or not on the human side, there is a study that shows that manual tooth brushing was less effective than sodium fluoride in tooth paste at plaque and tartar control (laughs).

Traditionally we always thought we need to physically remove dental plaque and tartar but really what you need to do is choose who lives in that dental plaque and below the gum line -- that is a bigger driver of health or disease than physical removal of plaque on teeth.

10:31 Lorien Clemens

So then are you saying don't brush your dogs teeth?

10:33 Dr. Emily Stein

Well no because I don't want all the vets in the world to come down on me. But what I am saying is look honestly only 2% of dog parents brush their dogs teeth. 2%. And in my cause, this puppy in the background that you are probably hearing, he has chewed up every single tooth brush I have ever attempted to stick in his mouth. So I just physically cannot unless I restrain him and then it becomes very difficult and unenjoyable, and I don't want to stress him out anymore than he already is -- the little anxious guy that he is (laughs).

We've had to come up with easier ways that improve compliance too because we have to make it easy for pet parents to care for their pet's health, and that is our goal.

I would think the last way is things to chew for the physical destruction, but also to stimulate the gum tissue because that is another way that you can counterbalance the regulatory complicated systems that go on in the mucosal immune system, which is the gum tissue -- the world that I come from -- and help regulate the bioform below the gum line too. So like cloth-based toys or sticks or a lot of the types of things that require the chewing motion is actually good below the gum line for increasing circulation and things like that.

12:13 Lorien Clemens

And without naming any names, what about all these dental chews and treats that are out there. I mean there are a ton that are in the supplement aisle at my pet store. So, effective? Not effective?

12:25 Dr. Emily Stein

Not effective. Great marketing, not effecting. Definitely read those ingredients. Usually the number one, two and three ingredients are carbs. So you are actually causing more of a problem.

And then they throw these chemicals -- harsh chemicals -- that are antiseptics into the treats and chews thinking that that is actually -- and they have demonstrated that although it does have VOHC activity which means it does reduce plaque and tartar, you can still get gum disease when you are giving your dog chlorhexidine or when you are giving your dog some of these bleach derivatives that are in very many of the dental treats on the market.

It's not like -- you know the FDA makes us spit them out because they are so toxic, but you are actually feeding these dogs and cats these treats regularly and all the time. So you are risking cancer that way.

13:28 Lorien Clemens

You and I are actually looking at each other right now and I know everybody else is just hearing us, but I am sure you can see my brain -- I am just like what? (laughs) I had no idea, I had no idea!

13:38 Dr. Emily Stein

When I got into this space, I was like "I can not believe it's allowed." It's not regulated. They are repurposing all of these FDA-approved molecules for dental hygiene in humans, but they are only FDA-approved because we are spitting them out because they have a toxicity profile to them.

14:01 Lorien Clemens

Specifically you are supposed to spit out all the rinses and everything like that. Wow. Okay. Phew. Well we are going to take a little break (laughs) and then we are going to come back and talk about TEEF and how this changes everything for everybody. Hang on we will be right back.

14:28 Lorien Clemens

Okay we are back pet lovers! Now we are ready to explore TEEF's patented probiotic formula. It is called Protekin42. I am really excited to hear about this. So I would love it if you could give a little bit of background about why you invented TEEF?

14:43 Dr. Emily Stein

Yeah, so I had already invented the human formula because of my grandma's stroke. She had a stroke due to gum disease. I got into this 12 years ago actually when I was still at Stanford in a Rhuematology fellowship. That is where I first figured out that holy cow, what I had been brushing my teeth with and swishing around in my mouth is extraordinarily toxic and is actually not doing anything constructive.

So we took this whole mouth approach to trying to recalibrate the microbiome in the mouth. That has been shown clinically now in humans, whether you are 5 years old or 85 and in an alzheimer's facility, that our approach is actually more effective than traditional means.

So when I rescued -- her name was Tinsley and I rescued her from the Wenatchee Valley Humane Society six years ago now. They warned me -- she was actually not available yet but because of my medical background and I was willing to help take care of her and get her back to a more healthier state, I was able to adopt her.

They warned me that she had some pretty bad breath. I remember when I signing the paperwork, you know, her halitosis -- which is bad breath, a medical term for bad breath -- was so bad. She smelled like death. By the time I drove us down, with all the windows open (laughs), from Wenatchee, Washington to the Bay Area because I couldn't keep those windows up and it was 90-some degrees outside and it was -- ugh -- miserable with her breath that smell.

But by the time we got to the Bay Area, I literally had to make an emergency trip to the emergency department at the vet hospital to save her life because the infection below her gum line had spread to a blood stream infection and she wasn't doing well at all. So 21 teeth were extracted, several months of antibiotics to clean up all of the sites in her body. But she lived and then I started immediately working on [TEEF].

17:03 Lorien Clemens

Wow, I mean that is quite a story. And for those that are listening, I live in Wenatchee, Washington and the Wenatchee Valley Humane Society is near and dear to my heart.

So alright, so let's talk about the product itself because we have been talking a lot of geeky science which we love her on Pet Lover Geek, but let's talk about how actually simple it is and how easy it is to give it to your dog.

17:26 Dr. Emily Stein

Yeah. So we call it -- so it's TEEF and we are going to be modifying it to TEEF For Life because that is really our mission is to keep every tooth in a dog's mouth -- and a cat's mouth -- for the rest of their life. We called this Protekin42 because this is specifically optimized to protect all 42 teeth in that dog's mouth.

So what it is is a dental prebiotic. So probiotics are actually bacteria, living bacteria, you're feeding for gut health for instance. And what we figured out is that prebiotics were actually a better approach. So we are using safe nutrients -- there are only 4 of them -- to work specifically with the oral microbiome of the dog to block carbohydrate eating and to promote them to instead eat the protein in the dog's diet.

Just by doing that simple thing we have shown clinically we can recalibrate a dog's mouth in as little as 5 days. And it is 4 simple ingredients in a powder form. You take a little scoop -- it's a cute little scoop -- and you just take that scoop of powder and put it in their drinking water because that is the best way. It goes right into solution and then it coats that dog's mouth the rest of the day. Every time they get a drink this molecular prebiotic is actually working with the bacteria to really keep the bad ones at bay and really allow the beneficial protective ones to start overtaking and occupy the sites below the gum line and in the mouth.

And it has a benefit because it turns out that when bacteria eat carbohydrate it makes the stinky, bad breath molecules that you often smell in your dog. So Protekin actually shuts that down, so breath is better as well which is always a bonus.

19:17 Lorien Clemens

Wow, so this is awesome. I have to ask though because we have a mixed household, so dogs and cats, and they share a lot of the same water sources because we use fountains and things like that. So does this work with fountains and is there a danger to my cats?

19:31 Dr. Emily Stein

No danger to the cats. All the ingredients cats can take. We actually have a lot of customers with mixed households, and they report that it is actually working on their cats because their breath isn't half as bad. But I am actually working on a cat version right now that is totally tailored and optimized to the cat microbiome. We should have that out early 2021, and it is also a water additive.

But, as far as the water filter. Many filters actually get coated with the harmful -- remember we were talking about one of the best and easiest ways to help your dog is to clean the water bowl. A lot of these bowls have these filters that make it very difficult to clean on a regular basis and so we actually advise not to use the filtered water bowls just for that reason alone.

Secondarily sometimes if the filter is charcoal based it will pull out the Protekin out of the water, so therefore it won't work.

20:38 Lorien Clemens

Right, so if you have a cat that won't drink still water, then it probably --

20:42 Dr. Emily Stein

Yeah, just take the filter out, but keep it cycling.

20:46 Lorien Clemens

Oh, so you can still use it in the cycle, you just can't have the filter in there. Oh that's good to know. Good, awesome. Now one more thing before we wrap it up here. I would love it if you could talk about how it balances the bacteria and I would love it if you could get into the geeky part about what does that really mean? Because is the bad bacteria still there? Or is the bad bacteria going away? How does this all working to balance those two?

21:15 Dr. Emily Stein

Yeah, so imagine in your mouth and in your dog or cat's mouth, there is this continual struggle to survive and to grow and flourish. So there is this constant battle going on in a really limited and tight space, and they are fighting for nutrients and they are fighting for real estate.

Usually overtime the harmful ones wind up winning, so we are just trying to beat them back by starving them from carbohydrate. And then encouraging and nurturing the beneficial ones that are already there but might be underrepresented through being able to have them eat protein.

Often times just by stressing out -- it's called, in microbiology we call it nutrient stress -- so by stressing out these harmful bacteria and fungi, like candida and aspergillus, which flourishes in dogs' mouths -- they are not growing. So they are there but they are not growing.

And then overtime because we are feeding the good, they are then naturally able to out compete the candidas of the world, the multi-drug resistant staph that are in dogs' mouths. You know all of the scary things -- the porphyromonas gingivalis which is the main driver of gum disease. He gets crowded out by the good guys like lactobacillus laciphasilous and all these other probiotic organisms that naturally inhabit and humans' mouth.

So that is all we are doing. It's a natural process. We are making use of the natural selection that goes on any day through nutrient pressures that we are applying to the "microbiome" of the mouth. And I know that is complicated and a lot of science jargon but I kind of nerded out (laughs).

23:09 Lorien Clemens

No, it's almost like it is its own little society inside your mouth. You know, like when you support the underrepresented they tend to do better and thrive. So that is great.

23:20 Dr. Emily Stein

Yeah it is like minority focus. You got to help them survive because the mouth is only as health as the weakest link.

23:27 Lorien Clemens

Before we wrap up I would love it if you could tell people where they can learn more about TEEF and get tips for keeping their dog's mouth healthy.

23:36 Dr. Emily Stein

Sure, so you can go to and our website is full of useful information. We try to add blogs all the time but if you enter in your email address we will send you newsletters on a regular basis with some information and general helpful tips.

Otherwise talk to your veterinarian near you. They are great resources for dental hygiene because dental hygiene is one of the biggest drivers for health and wellness of animals. They are key experts in this equation.

24:18 Lorien Clemens

Wonderful. Thank you so much, I really appreciate you being here today. I thoroughly enjoyed geeking out with you today. It was a lot of fun!

Well pet lover, that wraps up this episode of Pet Lover Geek. Dr. Stein has amazing resources on the TEEF website so be sure to head over there if you are looking for more information on how to maintain positive dental hygiene and make a routine for your pup that will keep their mouths happy and healthy. I can’t wait to see you next time on Pet Lover Geek, powered by PetHub!



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