Caring for your dog's teeth is a vital part of their overall healthcare. It can help to prevent serious oral conditions that can cause complications if left untreated. Our vets in White Hall talk about common dental problems that can affect dogs and how they can be prevented with animal dentistry.
Common Types of Dental Problems & How They Affect Dogs
When it comes to caring for your dog's teeth, one of the easiest ways to keep them clean and healthy is by brushing them. By using a toothbrush and manually cleaning them you can help to clear away food particles, plaque, and debris. Plaque is made up of bacteria and leaves a whitish substance on your teeth. This can eventually turn yellow and harden into what we know as tartar or calculus. Tartar will remain stuck to the tooth until it is scraped off your dog's teeth with a special tool by the vet, just like your dentist would. When left untreated, plaque can build up causing decay and eventual tooth loss.
Gingivitis is one of the more common symptoms of dental conditions along with discolored deposits on the teeth, and increasingly bad breath. As the dental disease gets worse, dogs may experience even worse breath as well as bleeding of the gums.
Periodontal Disease (Gum Disease)
Gum disease is another common dental problem that can affect dogs. This can also be referred to as periodontal disease. This can cause the eventual loss of jawbone and teeth. In the earliest stages, plaque and tartar stick to your dog's teeth and eventually make their way under the gumline. Once under the gumline, serious complications can occur.
This disease starts in the form of gingivitis and develops into periodontal disease as the gum and bone around the tooth deteriorate. While the structures begin to deteriorate, small pockets will form which allow food particles to become trapped. When not treated swiftly, decay and tooth loss can result.
The most common signs of periodontal disease in dogs are:
- Discolored teeth (brown or yellow)
- Loose or missing teeth
- Bad breath
- Weight loss
- Inflamed or bleeding gums
- Excessive drooling
- Blood on chew toys or in the water bowl
- Favoring one side of the mouth when chewing
- 'Ropey' or bloody saliva
- Reduced appetite
- Problems keeping food in the mouth
Dogs commonly chew on things when they are bored or playful. While this isn't usually a problem (unless it's your shoe), you need to be sure that the object they are chewing on is safe, otherwise, they may end up with damaged teeth. Even everyday items that dogs use can be the cause of a tooth fracture such as bones or hard plastic used to make toys. Dog chew toys should be small enough that the dog doesn't have to entirely open its mouth, but large enough that there won't be a concern of accidentally swallowing or choking on the toy.
Infections are a common dog dental health concern that is caused by the buildup of bacteria on the teeth and in the mouth. While the bacteria alone isn't the issue, problems can arise when the bacteria continues to build up eventually finding a path into the tooth and becoming an infection. This infection may even enter the bloodstream and affect other parts of the body such as the vital organs. Infections are primarily caused by periodontitis but can also be initiated due to trauma-induced chewing on hard or sharp objects.
Some infections can be fatal as the bacteria makes its way to the bloodstream and cause organ disease/failure in the heart, liver, kidneys, or brain.
Protecting Your Dog's Oral Health
Dental care routines are an easy way to manage your dog's oral health and prevent serious oral health conditions from developing.
Adjusting your dog's diet can also increase oral hygiene, even with small exchanges like providing dental chews instead of less healthy treats. There are also water and food additives that can help to improve their breath and oral health.
Regularly brushing your dog's teeth can help to clear away plaque and bacteria that can lead to oral infections and decay. While it may not always be possible, you should try to brush your dog's teeth on a daily basis.
Be sure to bring your dog in for an oral hygiene cleaning and examination at least once every year. Some smaller breeds of dogs should go two or more times a year due to their teeth's shallow roots.
If you would like to learn more about your dog's oral health and how veterinary dentistry can help, please reach out to our team in White Hall.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.