You’ve probably heard the expression “a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s mouth” at least once. Contrary to popular belief, this is NOT true, and a dog’s dental health is one thing that is often overlooked. With February being National Pet Dental Health Month, we thought it would be a great time to discuss, wait for it…. your dog’s teeth! We’ll take a look at some common problems and different types of dental care for your pooch.
Common Dental Problems in Dogs
- Puppy Teeth vs. Adult Teeth – Just like humans, a dog’s first set of teeth falls out and permanent teeth grow in. Between 4 and 6 months, you may notice some loose teeth in your dog’s mouth, and you may even find some puppy teeth lying around the house. By about 7-8 months, most of your dog’s new teeth will have grown in. One of the most common issues that occurs is a new tooth growing in before the old one has fallen out. Make sure you are frequently checking your dog’s mouth to make sure his teeth are properly coming in. If you spot a problem, make an appointment with your family vet.
- Periodontal Disease – Do you often notice spots of blood on your dog’s toys when he’s finished playing with them? This may be a sign your pooch has periodontal disease. The problem starts when your dog has significant plaque build up on his teeth that turns into tartar. If the tartar moves under the gum line, it may develop into gingivitis which when left untreated, can cause the gums to recede and lose functionality. The best way to prevent your dog from getting periodontal disease is a combination of routine at-home dental care and periodic dental exams by a vet.
- Tooth Root Abscess – This is one of the more painful oral problems your dog can have. It generally happens when your dog has a broken or cracked tooth or has advanced gum damage that has been left untreated and the tooth has become exposed to bacteria which, in turn, results in an infection. If your dog is dropping its food, tipping his head to the side when eating, or avoiding eating all together, your dog may have an abscess. Check your dog’s mouth and if you notice any bumps or red, swollen gums, it’s best to get him into the vet to get it looked at. The vet will generally take an X-ray to determine the severity of the problem and let you know what your options are, which may include a root canal or extraction of the tooth.
Now that we’ve covered some of the more common dental problems in dogs, let’s discuss the best ways to prevent them from happening in the first place.
Doggie Dental Care
- Brushing Teeth – While you don’t need to brush your dog’s teeth every day, the more often you do it, the better. Your pooch might not be too keen on the idea to start with but keep at it and he will eventually grow more accustomed to it. Make sure to get a toothpaste that is specifically made for dogs as human toothpaste contains ingredients that are toxic to animals.
- Dental Treats and Dog Chews – Dental treats are a great way to help keep your dog’s teeth clean. These treats are made to remove plaque buildup and generally have ingredients to freshen your dog’s breath, which we all know isn’t always the best! Dog chews can also help clean your dog’s teeth. When your dog gnaws on the chew, it helps scrape plaque off the teeth and many chews made from meat, contain enzymes that help promote oral health. There are many options such as cow or pig ears, chicken sticks, or rubber or nylon chews so you can find one that is just right for your dog.
- Regular Checkups – The best way to protect your dog’s teeth is by taking him to get dental cleanings on a regular basis. A professional will be able to examine all areas of your dog’s mouth to ensure there aren’t any issues that may have gone unnoticed. The frequency of needing to have your dog’s teeth professionally cleaned vary on your dog’s age, breed, diet, and routine care. Your vet will typically look at your dog’s teeth during a regular check-up and advise if it’s time for a cleaning.
Taking care of your pooch’s teeth isn’t hard once you make it a part of your routine. The biggest thing to remember, it’s almost always cheaper to pay for preventative dental care as opposed to paying to treat a dental problem!