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Dog Dental Care

Dog Dental Care

Your dog’s dental care is very important!

The normal canine mouth has 44 teeth – 22 on the top and 22 on the bottom. These teeth are divided into 8 upper and 6 lower incisors, 4 canines, 16 premolars, and 4 upper and 6 lower molars. Canine teeth are designed to rip and shred food and are suited for a carnivorous diet.

The most common symptom of dog dental disease is bad breath (halitosis). In addition, you may notice inflamed gums (gingivitis), tartar, difficulty chewing or pain when chewing, poor appetite and weight loss. Dog dental disease usually manifests itself as gum disease (gingivitis) secondary to plaque and tartar accumulation. Plaque is an invisible accumulation of bacteria that forms on teeth. As the plaque on your dog’s teeth continues to accumulate, it eventually mineralizes and hardens to form tartar, which can be observed accumulating on the tooth surface.

As dog dental disease process progresses, the gums recede and become inflamed. This inflammation is gingivitis, and is noticed as reddened gums that look inflamed. A dog with gingivitis is in discomfort and frequently has bad breath.

It is important to know dental disease can spread to other organs of the body, causing serious and dangerous illness to your pet.

Dogs have a tendency towards developing gingivitis (gum disease) as they age. However, gingivitis has been diagnosed in dogs as young as three. If gingivitis is left untreated the inflammation moves into the root of the tooth (periodontal disease) and can cause pain and tooth loss. Eventually, bacteria from this infection enter into the bloodstream and can cause serious disease to heart valves, liver, and kidneys. The dog might be lethargic, coughing, have breathing difficulty, or have a general appearance of poor health.

Even though dogs do not normally get cavities, they are prone to developing a brown substance called calculus around their gums. Calculus, laden with bacteria, can eventually cause canine gums to recede, exposing the root. Teeth can loosen in their sockets, opening up the possibility of infection. Although antibiotics can suppress gum infection, only tartar removal can prevent infection from reoccurring. Infection can travel throughout the mouth, causing pharyngitis and in advanced cases, can enter the blood stream, even causing kidney and heart disease.

Tartar control biscuits, bones, and chew-eez can help reduce tartar buildup above the gum line, but only regular brushing can reach the critical areas below the gum line. Dry dog food helps keep the plaque level down. However, it helps only in the area that’s visible, not in the important area just below the gum line. Dog biscuits can also reduce tartar, but again, only above the gum line.

Dog dental disease requires special care before, during, and after the time the problem is resolved. It is diagnosed by a veterinarian only after a complete exam is performed. It is important that a veterinarian makes this diagnosis since there are some diseases that can mimic the symptoms of dog dental disease, but have different causes and treatments.


Brushing your dog’s teeth does the best job of cleaning the important area below the gum line, where bacteria and plaque hide and can rot away the gums and bone.

Veterinarians recommend home dental care which involves brushing your dog’s teeth at least twice a week, perhaps more frequently for dogs with stubborn dental problems.

The act of brushing a dog’s teeth twice weekly, while initially daunting becomes easier with practice and routine. Caring for your dog’s dental hygiene will assure good dental health and prevent many more serious dental and medical problems as he ages.

Regular preventive dental care will keep your pet’s teeth and gums healthy, and protect your pet’s long term health. Dogs generally form most plaque on the outside of their teeth, but they occasionally form plaque on inside surfaces of the mouth. Daily brushing works to get rid of plaque on the outside surfaces of the mouth.

The good news is a home dental hygiene regimen including regular brushing, can prevent its development. Owners should brush their dog’s teeth at least twice a week.

Brushing a dog’s teeth is easier than brushing your own. Their narrow teeth are spaced more widely than human teeth, eliminating the need for flossing. Their teeth only touch in one or two places. A toothbrush can reach about 90% of the areas that need to be brushed. Always use specially formulated dog toothpaste. Because dogs can’t rinse and spit after a brushing, the paste must be safe for pets to swallow. Some human toothpastes contain detergents which can irritate pets’ stomachs and in addition, large quantities of ingested fluoride can harm pets. A typical dog toothpaste is chicken (poultry), peanut butter, or beef-flavored and contains water, sorbitol, silica, cellulose gum, Trisodium EDTA, Methylparaben, propylparaben, and titanium dioxide. You can buy dog toothpaste at the pet store or from your vet.

Most dog dental kits contain a toothbrush and toothpaste, sold together. If using a human toothbrush, pick a soft nylon bristle – for a smaller dog, a soft child-sized brush will suffice. Finger brushes can be purchased as well. These fit on a fingertip and allow owners easier access to their dogs’ mouths. Electric toothbrushes can be used if dogs can tolerate the mechanical noise.

It’s easy to get your dog ready to have his teeth brushed, and some dogs even enjoy the procedure. Time and patience in the beginning can lead to a good experience that the dog tolerates without a fuss.

How to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth

Dental Problems:

Professional Cleanings (The Dental):

The Bottom Line

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