Dogs can have issues with their teeth just like their human owners. Our Hattiesburg and Wiggins vets will explain the most common dental problems in dogs.
Common Dental Conditions In Dogs
There are many different dental conditions that you need to look out for in your dog. Most are simple to treat and should not cause your dog additional pain if treated properly but it's important to know what to look out for.
Plaque and Tartar Buildup
Plaque is a whitish substance made mostly from bacteria and has a foul odor 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 also known as calculus.
Tartar will stay on 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 teeth and gums causes further tooth decay and gum irritation.
Plaque and tartar are the primary causes of loose teeth and gum disease. The main signs dog owners will notice are bad breath, discolored deposits on teeth, and a red, swollen gum line (called gingivitis). As dental disease progresses, owners may notice bleeding gums and worsening breath.
"Periodontal" refers to the gums and bones that surround the teeth. When plaque and tartar stay in the mouth, bacteria make their way under the gum line, eating away at the tissue and bone that hold the teeth in place.
Periodontal disease starts with gingivitis. If it is not taken care of, there can be a 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.
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.
This happens when a 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.
Tooth fractures are common in dogs that have a start bite. Items like bones, antlers, and very hard plastic can 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 hard on your knee.
The size of the chew can also contribute to 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. Pick chews that are small enough to hold in the mouth without swallowing by accident but are not so large that the dog needs to have a fully open mouth to chew on them.
Dog teeth problems are not just limited to the dog's mouth. Bacteria in the plaque and tartar can easily enter the bloodstream, especially if your dog has irritated gums, like in the case of periodontal disease.
This bacteria makes its way through the bloodstream and reaches the heart, kidneys, liver, and even sometimes the brain. This can cause serious organ diseases and worsen the existing disease, and even organ failure.
Retained Baby Teeth
All puppies have baby teeth, also called deciduous teeth, that are supposed to be pushed out by the growth of adult teeth. In most cases, a puppy's baby teeth fall out, and the adult teeth take their place by the age of six months. However, 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.
Signs and Symptoms
- 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
Routine Dental Care & Prevention
The best way to prevent teeth problems in your dog is to begin a dental care routine. Daily tooth brushing is the gold standard, but not all dogs will tolerate this. Alternatives include dental chews and water or food additives. No matter what method you choose, be sure you are looking at your dog's teeth regularly, so you can see problems before they become severe.