A Buildup of Plaque & Tartar
If your dog doesn't receive regular dental cleanings it can lead to a build-up of decay causing plaque and tartar. Plaque is a whiteish substance made up primarily of bacteria, that if left on the tooth, will harden and turn a more yellowish color. This tartar cannot be removed by you at home. You will need to bring your dog to the vet in order to have it removed using special dental tools.
When we talk about tooth loss in dogs it is commonly caused by advanced tooth decay caused by a lack of dental care and a build-up of this bacteria on the teeth leading to gum disease. The most common signs for a dog owner to look out for are gingivitis (very red and swollen gum line), discolored deposits on the teeth, and increasingly bad breath. As the dental disease gets worse, dogs may experience even worse breath as well as bleeding of the gums.
Periodontal Disease (Gum Disease)
The deterioration of the gums and structures surrounding a tooth is referred to as gum disease. This is the next stage after bacteria has built up around the tooth and made its way below the gumline.
The early stage of gum disease is gingivitis which only affects the soft tissues in the mouth such as the gums. If this dental disease is left untreated it will eventually begin to affect the bones and solid structures within the mouth as gum diseases. As this occurs, pockets around the tooth can develop, allowing food and bacteria to collect below the tooth. If you do not bring your dog in for dental care swiftly it can lead to other more serious dental conditions as well as having an effect on the entirety of your dog's health and body.
Common symptoms of canine periodontitis include:
- Discolored teeth (brown or yellow)
- Loose or missing teeth
- Bad breath
- Weight loss
- Inflamed or bleeding gums
- Excessive drooling
- Blood on chew toys or in the water bowl
- Favoring one side of the mouth when chewing
- “Ropey” or bloody saliva
- Reduced appetite
- Problems keeping food in the mouth
If your dog begins to show any of the above symptoms you should reach out to your vet right away.
Tooth Fractures (Broken Teeth)
Dogs use their mouths to explore the world and we all know that they like to chew. So the occurrence of tooth fractures should not be all that surprising. Tooth fractures can even sometimes be caused by objects that are meant for your dog such as toys and dishes.
Dog chew toys should be small enough that the dog doesn't have to entirely open its mouth, but large enough that there won't be a concern of accidentally swallowing or choking on the toy.
Potentially Life-Threatening Oral Infections
If the bacteria that normally attaches to the exterior of the tooth and gums makes its way into the root of the tooth resulting in a pocket of pus that may cause a serious infection. Infections are primarily caused by periodontitis but can also be initiated due to trauma-induced chewing on hard or sharp objects. Some infections can be fatal as the bacteria makes its way to the bloodstream and cause organ disease/failure in the heart, liver, kidneys, or brain.
How can you help to prevent dental diseases in dogs?
By keeping your dog on a regular schedule of at-home oral health care you can help prevent a number of serious conditions and dental diseases.
There are a number of additives on the market which you put in your dog's water or food to help maintain good oral health. Adjusting your dog's diet can also increase oral hygiene, even with small exchanges like providing dental chews instead of less healthy treats.
One other way that you can help protect your dog's dental health is with regular teeth brushing. Although it is not very realistic, brushing their teeth every day would be best if your dog will tolerate the process.
Your dog should visit the dentist for an annual cleaning and examination. If you have a small breed of dog then your vet may recommend that you bring them in more frequently in order to keep their teeth healthy.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.