Dental disease is the most commonly diagnosed disease in dogs. Periodontal disease is the most common culprit for causing dental disease. Periodontal disease describes the inflammation or infection of the gums around the teeth. Dogs don’t really get cavities like humans; they get a build-up of tartar that over time causes an infection of the area around the tooth, and leads to gingivitis and periodontal disease. Statistics show that 8 of 10 dogs over the age of three are affected with dental problems. The good news is that dental disease can be treated and there are several good preventive practices that can be done to decrease the risk of your dog suffering from dental disease. The bad news is that if dental disease goes undetected or untreated, the bacteria that will build up can be absorbed into the bloodstream and carried to other organs where it can cause an infection.

SOURCE & CAUSE(S) OF DENTAL DISEASE IN DOGS

Tartar is formed by a build-up of bacteria on the tooth surface. Since dogs don’t brush their teeth every day, the bacteria multiply and eventually form a hard substance that is known as plaque, and this leads to tartar formation. This tartar begins to infect the gums and they recede. As the gums recede, unprotected areas of the tooth are exposed and infection sets, in causing pain. Although dental disease is not necessarily a heredity issue, some breeds are more susceptible than others.

SIGNS & SYMPTOMS OF DENTAL DISEASE IN DOGS

  • Foul breath
  • Change in eating habits
  • Painful mouth – may growl or snarl if mouth or head is touched
  • Excessive drooling
  • Not wanting to chew on toys
  • Dropping food out of mouth when eating
  • Rubbing face on ground or pawing at face
  • Weight loss

DIAGNOSIS & TESTS FOR DENTAL DISEASE IN DOGS

Diagnosis begins with a complete history and a physical exam of the dog. If your dog is suffering from a degree of dental disease, your veterinarian will be able make this determination by looking at your dog’s teeth and gums. Based on the findings, a dental cleaning may or may not be recommended. Some blood work may be needed to evaluate the internal organ function, in order to determine if it is sufficient to go under general anesthesia for the procedure.

TREATMENT & MANAGEMENT OF DENTAL DISEASE IN DOGS

The goal of dental cleaning is to remove the tartar and plaque from the tooth surface using ultrasonic scaling and polishing tools. This will require general anesthesia and can be done as an outpatient visit. If any teeth need to be extracted, this can also be done at the same time as the cleaning, and will usually require a course of oral antibiotics following the procedure.

PREVENTION & HELPFUL TIPS FOR DENTAL DISEASE IN DOGS

  • Dental disease itself is not 100% preventable, however, the degree of dental disease can be. Here are some ways dog owners can help reduce the effects of tartar:
  • Provide special canine chew toys, designed to reduce tartar build up.
  • Feed special dental diets
  • Brush your dog’s teeth at home on a regular basis.  Ask your veterinarian to provide you with the proper instructions.
  • Take your dog to the veterinarian for routine