Your Practical Guide To Dog Dental Care

By Richard Gray

Dog dental care is very important for you as a responsible owner, because we know you want to ensure your dog enjoys a healthy and happy life. Owners are often diligent about exercise routine and feeding habits.

But, one aspect of a dog’s well-being that is often overlooked is dental care.

This may be due to difficulties in home dental care. The National Library of Medicine says ‘as many as one in four owners experience difficulties inspecting their dog’s teeth’.

They go on to say that dental disease is very common. However, professional dental cleaning under anesthesia is not performed as often as needed. Owners need to be aware that professional assessment of a dog’s dental health is very important. [1]

Just like humans, dogs need regular dental maintenance to keep their teeth and gums healthy.

This habitual type of treatment can help prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and other dental problems in dogs. It is key to follow good practices to keep your dog’s dental health in the best possible shape.

To begin with…

What should a healthy mouth look like?

Clean teeth with no residue and pink gums…

A healthy mouth has gums that appear pale pink in color and have well-defined edges where they join the surface of the tooth. A dog’s teeth should appear clean, without any left-over food deposits and staining, or tartar. 

Signs of Dental Disease

Bad breath is often the first sign, though it is not always apparent. The onset of dental disease starts when bacteria, food and saliva blend together to form plaque.  

Tartar is the yellow brown stain on the teeth or gum line. It only takes a few days for plaque to become tartar.

If plaque remains on teeth and isn’t brushed away or detached by chewing, it will have a reaction with minerals to form the harder substance, tartar. As tartar increases on teeth and under the gums, it causes gum inflammation, called gingivitis. 

The bacteria permeate into the teeth and into the soft tissue, which can result in loosening of teeth, infections and pain.

Periodontal Disease

The next stage is a progression to periodontal disease. It is a common issue with 80% of dogs over two years of age being afflicted. [2]

If periodontal disease develops and increases it leaves your dog open to loose teeth, bleeding gums, and a painful mouth. Furthermore, this can cause infections to spread to the liver, kidneys and heart. [3]

Treating periodontal disease includes extensive dental cleaning and X-rays to show the severity of the disease. Your vet will then recommend the next stage of treatment taking into account your dog’s overall health.  

Factors in Dental Disease

Age

Older dogs need more dental care than younger dogs. After a dog reaches 7 years old, dental check ups should be at least once a year.

Size

As early as 2 years old, smaller & toy breeds may need some dental care. Small dogs’ teeth relative to their mouths are bigger, so this may result in overcrowding.

Small breeds are prone to retaining their baby teeth even when their adult teeth are grown. The resulting congestion means there are more places for tartar to accumulate. 

Brachycephalic or flat faced breeds, such as Bulldogs, pugs and Shih Tzus are susceptible to teeth deformity and consequently dental disease.

Tartar can accumulate in the deformed teeth and make the dog susceptible to endodontic disease. This is a disease where infection takes place in the soft pulp mass at the center of a tooth, when the enamel is cracked and reveals the dental mass to the danger of infection. [4]

The roots of small breeds’ teeth are not as deep as large dogs so they are in danger of severe periodontal disease earlier than larger breeds.

Another dental condition for you to be wary of is malocclusion (known as ‘overbites’). It is a condition where a dog’s upper and lower jaws are not the same length. So, one jaw overlaps the other. This causes the afflicted dog to be liable to dental disease and the buildup of tartar. 

Scientific research revealed the five breeds most prone to malocclusion are: poodles, Labrador retrievers, Chihuahuas, pit bull terriers and Cavalier King Charles spaniels.

Mixed breeds of poodle and Labrador retrievers are also at risk. [5]

Larger dogs have fewer dental issues compared to small dogs. But they can suffer broken and fractured teeth brought on by excessive chewing. The resulting mouth pain may induce reduced appetite, and cause the dog to be irritable.

Damaged teeth do again provide a risk of endodontic disease, because the enamel no longer protects the soft pulp at the center of the tooth.

Scheduling regular examinations with your veterinarian is a good idea, so they can advise how often your dog needs treatment.

Prevention methods

Tooth Brushing

Brushing the teeth is an essential part of dog dental care.

It can take a while for your pet to come to terms with having their teeth brushed.

The dog toothpaste flavors of beef, chicken, mint and peanut butter, may go some way to making this a more pleasant experience for your dog. 

It is best to introduce the dog toothpaste on your finger and put it into your dog’s mouth before attempting to rub it into their teeth.

Progress from there to a toothbrush. Find a brush of the right size and one that is comfortable for your dog’s mouth. 

Do not use human toothpaste in dog dental care! Human toothpaste contains detergents, fluoride and artificial sweeteners, such as xylitol, which is poisonous to dogs.

Dog Dental Care Diet

Dental care diets have the texture of kibble.

Most dog dental care diets have a special kibble consistency that clears away tartar and plaque from the surface of teeth as your dog is chewing.

Both prescription & non-prescription diets are available. Have a chat with your vet about which one suits your dog best.

Dog Dental Care Chews and Bones

Used effectively, dental chews and bones mechanically scrape away at the tooth surface. This can be an effective method in dog dental care.

However, scientific research warns of the effectiveness of chewing bones. The National Library of Medicine says ‘the evidence of chewing bones being beneficial for dental health is very limited.’ [6]

The  longer lasting dental treats are most effective because the longer duration of them gives more brushing action time. 

Ideally, your dog should chew on each side of their mouth and against each surface of their teeth.

Dog Dental Care Mouth Rinses & Water Additives

Very good antibacterial rinses are available to be applied directly into the mouth or absorbed onto a toothbrush. Also, they can be applied by soaking them into a cloth, or cotton tip. 

Water additives won’t reverse existing dental disease, but they will help to delay the growth of bacteria and help freshen up the breath.

Dental Toys

Just like chews, dog dental care toys mechanically scrape away plaque from the surface of teeth as your dog chews. Dental toys are usually flavored and mostly last longer than an edible treat. 

Treatment

Dental Cleaning

Dental cleaning is performed with the dog under anesthesia.

Just like us, dogs need regular dental visits for dental cleaning (known as dental prophylaxis).

Dental cleaning is particularly important for dogs that don’t like having their teeth brushed and won’t eat dry food.

This treatment should be undertaken by a veterinarian or certified veterinary dentist.

The treatment usually lasts between 30-40 minutes for a regular dental cleaning.

What happens in dental cleaning? 

To avoid accidental injury to the dog, potential injury to the vet through biting, and unnecessary stress on the animal, the procedure is done under anesthesia.

Your dog will be closely monitored during their sedation to ensure they remain fit and well.

After the dog is unconscious, a preliminary x-ray is taken to determine what is going on below the tooth surface and to see whether any tooth needs special attention. 

During the dog dental care cleaning, an ultrasonic scaler and hand tools may be used to remove plaque and tartar on a tooth surface and below the gum line.

Polishing the teeth could be performed in the same visit. The veterinary dentist may suggest tooth extraction to relieve pain and keep the mouth healthy.

Most pets wake up almost immediately after treatment, as most anesthesia is reversible.

In some cases it can take between one and two days to fully recover. If this is the case, your dog may seem drowsy and have a reduced appetite.

What to do now?

Dog dental care and overall health are vital for your dog’s happiness and well-being. As you know, caring for a dog involves a big personal commitment. If you want to know more about health and dog breeds check out our post What Breed Of Dog Has The Least Health Problems?

FAQs

How do you take care of a dog’s teeth?

Taking care of a dog’s teeth involves regular brushing and providing appropriate chew toys. Brush your dog’s teeth using a dog toothbrush and toothpaste specifically designed for dogs. Aim to brush their teeth at least two to three times a week. Additionally, offering dental chews or toys can help remove plaque and tartar buildup and promote healthy teeth and gums.

What is the most effective dog dental care?

The most effective dog dental care includes a combination of regular brushing, professional dental cleanings, and a healthy diet. Brushing your dog’s teeth with a dog-specific toothbrush and toothpaste is crucial for maintaining good oral hygiene. Professional dental cleanings performed by a veterinarian are recommended annually or as advised by your vet. Feeding your dog a balanced diet, including dental-friendly treats and food, can also contribute to their overall dental health.

How often should you clean your dog’s teeth?

Ideally, you should clean your dog’s teeth two to three times a week. Regular brushing helps prevent plaque and tartar buildup and reduces the risk of dental problems. However, the frequency may vary depending on your dog’s individual needs and dental health. Some dogs may require more frequent cleanings, while others may need less. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the best dental care routine for your dog.

How do I clean a dog’s teeth naturally?

Cleaning a dog’s teeth naturally can be done by offering dental-friendly treats and incorporating certain foods into their diet. Feeding raw bones, such as raw chicken or beef bones, can help scrape away plaque and tartar. Additionally, feeding crunchy fruits and vegetables like carrots or apples (not the core and seeds!) can provide a natural way to clean your dog’s teeth. However, it’s important to note that not all natural remedies are suitable for every dog, so consult with your vet before making any dietary changes.

How much does dog teeth cleaning cost?

The cost of dog teeth cleaning can vary depending on various factors such as your location, the veterinary clinic you visit, the extent of the cleaning required, and any additional procedures or treatments needed. On average, a routine dental cleaning for a dog can range from $200 to $500. However, this cost may increase if extractions or other dental treatments are necessary. It’s best to consult with your veterinarian to get an accurate estimate for your dog’s specific needs.

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