Giving your dog a Hollywood smile may be wholly inappropriate but looking after their teeth is one of the biggest gifts you can give them. As with humans, toothache or fractured teeth can be painful for dogs.
Keeping on top of what’s going on inside your dog’s mouth is a part and parcel of being a responsible dog owner.
Read on for the lowdown on how to check your dog’s teeth and for some handy tips on how to prevent dental disease in dogs.
The 4 Types of Teeth That Dogs Have
A puppy has 28 milk teeth, known as deciduous teeth. These will start to appear 2 weeks after birth and grow fully around 8-10 weeks later. They are ultra-sharp to give a little extra help with chewing at a time when jaws are not as strong as in later life.
Puppies lose their first teeth rapidly. The adult premolars and molars will come in between 5-8 months, and eventually, there will be a total of 42 teeth, in contrast to the 32 that most adult humans have. Here are the 4 types:
Incisors: These are the small teeth at the front of your dog’s mouth. Dogs use these to tear meat and for self-grooming. Your dog will have 12 incisors, 6 on top and 6 on the bottom.
Canines: These are the large pointed teeth at the bottom and top of both sides of the mouth – the scary ones! Dogs use these 4 teeth, 2 on top and 2 on the bottom, to puncture and hold on to objects.
Premolars: You’ll find 16 of these behind the canine teeth, 8 on top and 8 on the bottom. Dogs use these for shearing.
Molars: You’ll find these heavy-duty teeth in the rear of the mouth. Dogs use them to grind and chew. You’ll find 4 molars on the top of your dog’s mouth and 6 on the bottom.
Maintaining Your Dog’s Dental Hygiene
You should treat your dog’s teeth in a similar way to your own. That means brushing them regularly and getting them checked routinely by a vet. Dental disease is common in dogs and can be extremely uncomfortable.
Prevention is always the best course of action: so, to avoid costly treatments, check and clean your dog’s teeth as a matter of routine. Brushing and cleaning a dog’s teeth takes patience and perseverance. Check here for the tips you need to get the job done properly.
Only ever use toothpaste made especially for dogs. Human toothpaste often contains ingredients like the sweetener xylitol, that’s toxic to dogs. Chew toys are a good option especially if you ever run into problems with brushing.
Diet and Disease
Food also plays a role in dental disease. Dry dog food may, for example, have the added benefit of exercising chewing muscles and give a mild physical cleansing effect on the teeth too. Specially formulated dental dry foods are an additional option – they are designed to enhance the physical cleansing action.
Each dog is unique and that means there’s never a “one size fits all” diet that will suit all dogs. If you’re unsure, talk to a vet.
Although most dogs over the age of 3 will have some form of dental disease, tooth decay is rare, making up less than 10 percent of all dental problems. Typical dental problems seen in dogs tend to be fractured teeth and periodontal disease.
Signs Your Dog Has Dental Disease
Periodontal disease is how we describe infections and associated inflammation of the tissues around the tooth. There are 4 tissues that make up the periodontium. These are:
- The gingiva (gums)
- The cementum that shields the root
- The periodontal ligament that attaches the tooth’s root to the bone
- The alveolar bone
Periodontal diseases start with gingivitis – or inflammation and infection of the gums. If untreated, the infection often spreads further into the tooth socket, damaging the bone. The tooth then often becomes loose and may fall out – or require extraction.
Signs of both periodontal disease and heart disease often happen at the same time. Although hard to definitively determine cause and effect, we know there’s a connection because they occur together so regularly.
The mouth houses thousands of bacteria. When they multiply on the surface of teeth, they make an invisible layer known as plaque. If you don’t remove it, it will thicken and mineralize – leading to a hard, brown visible crust called tartar.
Tartar is a rough material that attracts more plaque to stick to the tooth surface. This can then lead to further gingivitis, the first but reversible stage of periodontal disease. This can also cause bad breath or halitosis. Other signs of periodontal disease in dogs include:
- Red or bleeding gums
- Blood in water or food bowls
- Thick saliva and dog using one side of the mouth more than the other
- Facial swelling and rubbing the face with the paws or on the floor
How to Prevent Tartar Buildup on a Dog’s Teeth
Although looking after your dog’s teeth at home will help, you may have to get tartar removed by a vet. This gets done under anesthetic. Your vet will be able to thoroughly examine how much tartar has accumulated below and above the gum line.
If periodontal disease is very serious, it may be impossible to save an affected teeth, with extraction left as the only option. Your vet will then perform tooth scaling to remove all traces of tartar from other teeth.
Your vet may also use fluoride, antibiotic preparations, and specialist cleaning compounds to improve tooth sensitivity, strengthen enamel, tackle bacterial infections, and lower the chance of future plaque accumulation.
Fractured Teeth of Your Dog
We refer to the center of the tooth as the pulp. Hard dentin and even enamel cover this. There are 2 kinds of tooth fractures:
- Uncomplicated fractures expose sensitive dentin
- Complex fractures extend deeper to expose the pulp, nerves, and blood vessels
Most tooth fractures happen when a dog chews on a hard object like an ice cube, bone or tough nylon chew Any chew toy or dental treat should bend and give a little upon compression.
Treatment for Dental Fractures
If the pulp gets exposed, root canal therapy or extraction of the tooth are the only treatment choices. If you leave a tooth untreated, this can cause more serious infections.
When to Call the Vet
A vet should be your first port of call if you’re struggling to clean your dog’s teeth. You should also get in touch with a vet if you notice any of the signs of periodontal disease in dogs or fractured teeth.
The sooner you get your dog checked out the better. If you have any concerns at all about your pet’s dental welfare, book a consultation now with one of our highly-trained team.