Canine Dental Care
Important For The Overall Health of Your Dog
“Many owners overlook the importance of canine teeth and the problems
that develop from within their pets’ mouths.”
Neglecting canine dental care can lead to painful oral diseases and undermine your dog’s overall health. Don’t overlook the importance of your dog’s dental health.
Canine Dental Care – Overview/Snapshot
The combination of saliva, food particles, and bacteria in a dog’s mouth forms a substance called “plaque” that sticks to the teeth. Plaque can be removed from dog teeth by brushing, but once it begins to mineralize it forms a hard substance called “tartar” that is not so easily removed. Tartar is very irritating to soft tissues around the teeth and “gingivitis” or inflammation of the gums is the result.
If the tartar is not removed, inflammation and infection starts to separate the gums and other supporting soft tissues from around the teeth forming pockets, a condition known as “periodontal disease.” These pockets offer the perfect environment for worsening plaque and tartar buildup and infection, and the disease can progress until teeth become loose and eventually fall out.
Periodontal disease is a serious condition. If left untreated it not only causes oral pain and tooth loss, but the bacteria involved can also spread throughout the body and adversely affect the heart, liver, and kidneys.
Dental disease is associated with a wide range of symptoms including:
- Bad breath
- Reluctance to chew and eat
- Weight loss
- Loose or missing dog teeth
- Sensitivity around the mouth
- Pawing at the mouth
- Depression or irritation
- A red line at the edge of the gum where it touches a tooth
- Gums that bleed easily
- Receding gums
- Swollen areas around the face that may rupture and drain pus
- Sneezing and nasal discharge
The plaque and tartar buildup that promote the formation of gingivitis and periodontal disease is caused by a lack of proper canine dental care. Some breeds and individuals are much more susceptible to developing dental disease.
For instance, the teeth of small dogs are often crowded together and improperly aligned, which promotes the formation of plaque and tartar. Without proper preventative care, however, most dogs will have problems with their teeth over time.
Proper canine dental care, including daily tooth brushing, regular opportunities to chew (but not on very hard objects like bones that can break teeth), and routine dental cleanings all help prevent the development and progression of dental disease.
Canine Dental Care and Treatment
Your veterinarian can probably get an overall impression of your dog’s oral health during a physical exam, but sedation is required to inspect the entire oral cavity. Dental x-rays are necessary to determine whether or not tooth roots and other deep tissues are healthy and to plan appropriate treatment.
If your dog has plaque and tartar build-up and mild to moderate gingivitis, your veterinarian will probably recommend a dental prophylaxis. This procedure includes a complete oral exam, removal or plaque and tartar from all tooth surfaces (including under the gum line), and polishing the teeth. If more advanced disease is found, tooth extraction, root canals, or other forms of oral surgery may be necessary.
As a responsible owner there is a lot you can do to prevent your dog from developing dental disease. First of all, brush dog teeth daily. Use a soft toothbrush or even a piece of gauze or cloth wrapped around your finger and apply a small amount of toothpaste designed for dogs.
Gently scrub the outer surfaces of your dog’s teeth in a circular motion. Antiseptic rinses can be helpful if brushing is not possible.
Chewing on dry food and crunchy treats, especially those designed specifically to clean teeth, can also help, but these products do not eliminate the need for daily tooth brushing.
Finally, see your veterinarian regularly so that he or she can examine your pet’s mouth and determine when a professional dental cleaning is in your dog’s best interest.
Consulting Veterinarian: Jennifer Coates, DVM