Do you have questions about taking care of your dog's teeth?
We've answered some commonly asked questions below:
I've heard dental problems are common is dogs, how will I know if my dog has a dental problem?
Dental disease is the most common disease in dogs, with about 70% of
all dogs over the age of 3 being affected. Look for redness at the gum
line or bleeding gums as well as tartar accumulation on or around the
teeth. As well as signs of any mouth discomfort or fowl smelling
breath, if your dog has any of these symptoms it may be time to contact
your veterinarian for a dental exam and a teeth cleaning.
What is tartar and why is it so bad?
Bacteria naturally inhabit our mouths as well as our pets' mouths.
If allowed, it will breed on the surface of the teeth to form an
invisible layer of a sticky substance called plaque. Plaque
accumulation, which is somewhat reduced by the dog's tongue movements
and chewing, eventually will mineralize and thicken around the base of
the tooth at the gum line and become visible as tartar. You can spot
tartar by its yellow or brownish color. As tartar collects on the
tooth, it will irritate the gums, causing inflammation or gingivitis. If
the tartar is not removed, this process will continue and the gums will
become more inflamed and infected leading to a condition called
periodontal disease. This is a serious form of gum disease which can
lead to gum recession and eventually to tooth loss. In addition, dental
infections from periodontal disease can spread to other parts of the
mouth and to internal organs such as the heart, kidneys and liver.
What can I expect when I bring my dog in for a dental exam and cleaning?
The exam will not only include examination of the mouth, teeth, and
gums, but may also include a full physical examination to rule out any
underlying health issues. If it is determined that your pet would
benefit from removal of tartar and plaque that has built up on the teeth
we will perform a dental prophylaxis, the medical term for cleaning and
polishing. Plaque and tartar only be removed by those specially
trained and is done while your pet is under anesthesia. Blood work may
be needed to determine adequate liver and kidney function to ensure that
anesthesia can be given safely during dental cleaning. It may also be
determined that your dog be started on antibiotics prior to teeth
cleaning or your veterinarian may discuss other pre-dental
recommendations such as x-rays. During the cleaning careful attention is
made, using special tools, to remove the tartar above as well as below
the gum line since gum recession most often occurs from tartar
accumulating below the gum line. If a diseased tooth is found, an
extraction may be necessary. As is also appropriate in human dentistry,
fluoride applications may be given to strengthen the tooth enamel with
antibiotics given to treat any bacterial infections. Special compounds
can be placed on the teeth to decrease the accumulation of plaque. In
addition, polishing the teeth creates a smooth surface which deters
bacteria from accumulating. Polishing is an important part of
preventive care because plaque and tartar naturally begin to form on the
teeth in as little as 6 hours after dental cleaning.
What about special dental diets and treats?
Special dental diets can play a role in reducing the accumulation of
plaque and subsequent tartar formation. There are veterinarian approved
dental diets available that have tartar reducing ingredients in them or
have a larger kibble which are textured to aid in plaque removal. In
addition, there are also special canine chew toys and treats that have
tartar controlling ingredients. Many products such as oral rinses and
water additives are also available that cut down on the bacteria in the
mouth or have plaque reducing enzymes. Your veterinarian can give you
specific dietary and dental aid recommendations that will help guide you
in your pet's dental program. None however work better than daily,
teeth brushing and all are to be used in addition to regular
How do I go about brushing my dog's teeth?
As important as the cleaning and polishing is to remove any hardened
deposits on the teeth, the prevention of plaque build up is just as
important. A dental program which includes daily brushing using a
veterinarian approved toothpaste and toothbrush can help maintain good
oral hygiene and prevent the buildup of disease causing plaque and
tartar. Be sure to choose toothpaste made for dogs, which come in a
variety of canine friendly flavors. Human toothpaste should NEVER be
given to your dog as it may contain ingredients that can be harmful to