There are a lot of dental diseases that can affect dogs so it's important you know the signs. Our Mamaroneck Veterinary Hospital vets will provide information on the most common dental problems in dogs and how to prevent them.
General Signs Of Dental Disease In Dogs
There are some general signs that your dog is having dental issues that you should be aware of including:
- Bad breath
- Discoloration of teeth
- Visible tartar buildup
- Inflamed gums
- Bleeding gums or blood spots are seen on dog toys/bedding
- Pawing at the mouth
- Swollen face
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty eating
- Excessive drooling
The Most Common Dental Conditions In Dogs
Retained Baby Teeth
All puppies have baby teeth that are supposed to be pushed out by the growth of adult teeth. In most cases, your puppy's baby teeth will fall out, and the adult teeth take their place by the age of six months. Sometimes, puppies may retain some deciduous teeth (the adult teeth come in, but the baby teeth remain).
There is no way to prevent retained deciduous teeth. However, your vet will likely recommend removing them under anesthesia to prevent shifting of adult teeth and tartar buildup.3 Many vets will do this when the dog is already under anesthesia for a spay or neuter.
Tooth fractures are common in dogs that are powerful chewers. Items like bones, antlers, and very hard plastic can actually cause teeth to break. Most vets will tell you that your dog should not chew on anything harder than what you would want to bang your foot/toe on.
The size of the chew can also be a factor in tooth fractures. A very large chew may make the tooth and chew line up at an angle that splits the outside of the tooth off. This is known as a slab fracture.
An infection may manifest as a tooth root abscess. The bacteria-laden pocket around the tooth root fills with pus to fight the infection. The abscess may get so large that it leads to facial swelling and anatomical deformity. Oral infections are often caused by periodontal disease, but they may also occur secondary to trauma in the mouth.
Dogs that chew on sharp or hard objects may injure their mouths and develop infections.
Plaque and Tartar Buildup
Plaque is a biofilm that develops on the teeth. It is white and mostly composed of bacteria. Plaque has a bad smell that worsens the longer it remains in the mouth. Plaque on the teeth causes tooth decay and gum irritation.
If not removed by brushing within about 24 to 48 hours, the plaque hardens and turns into tartar, a yellow or brown-colored substance. Tartar remains fixed to the surfaces of the teeth and cannot be removed without being scraped off with a hard object, like a professional dental scaler. Its contact with the teeth and gums can cause further tooth decay and gum irritation.
Plaque and tartar are the main causes of loose teeth and gum disease.
The term "periodontal" refers to the gums and bone that surround the teeth. When plaque and tartar remain in the mouth, bacteria makes its way under the gum line, eating away at the tissue and bone that hold the teeth in place.
Periodontal disease begins with gingivitis. As the disease progresses, there will be loss of bone and soft tissue around the teeth. As the vital support structures for the teeth degrade, pockets develop around the roots of the teeth, allowing food, bacteria, and debris to collect and form dangerous infections. Over time, the teeth become loose and begin to fall out.
Dog teeth problems are not just limited to the dog's mouth. The bacteria in the plaque and tartar can easily enter the bloodstream, especially if your dog has irritated gums, like in periodontal disease. This bacteria makes its way through the bloodstream and reaches the heart, kidneys, liver, and the brain. This can cause serious organ diseases and worsen existing disease, and even organ failure.
Importance Of Routine Dental Care
Your dog's oral health is an essential element of their overall health and wellbeing. Our dogs often begin showing signs of periodontal disease (gum disease) by the time they reach about 3 years of age. This early start to dental disease can have serious negative consequences for their long-term health.
In humans, studies have shown a clear link between periodontal disease and heart disease and this appears to hold for our pets as well.
The link between heart disease and periodontal disease in dogs is believed to be due to bacteria entering the bloodstream from the mouth, damaging heart function, and causing issues with other organs. These health issues are in addition to the more obvious problem of pain caused by eroded gums, and missing or damaged teeth.
A good oral health care routine at home paired with dental treats, and professional dental cleanings can go a long way toward controlling the buildup of plaque and tartar and preventing tooth decay.
Neglecting annual professional cleaning could put your pup at risk of developing gingivitis, periodontal disease, bad breath, and in severe cases pain, tooth decay, and tooth loss.
Preventing Dental Disease
Preventing dental disease in dogs can be as simple as making sure to get them into Mamaroneck Veterinary Hospital vets for their cleanings and checkups.
Dog parents play an important role in helping their dogs fight the battle against dental disease. Here are some tips for maintaining your dog’s oral health:
- Make daily brushing a part of your dog’s oral health routine. Use a finger brush or dog-specific toothbrush to remove any plaque or debris from your dog's teeth. If your dog isn't a fan of having their teeth brushed it may help to apply a small amount of canine toothpaste to the brush. These products come in a range of flavors your pooch will love.
- Use a plaque prevention product that you can apply to your pet’s gums and teeth. These products help prevent plaque buildup between professional cleanings.
- Give your dog dental treats, food, or chews designed to help keep plaque buildup and tartar away.