Printer Friendly

Teeth Are Major Health Indicators: When it comes to preventative care, your dog's teeth are a leading edge.

Dental care and dental problems have come to the forefront in canine preventive care. With so many dogs living longer lives, dental care should become an important part of your dog's daily care routine.

Your dog will have two sets of teeth over his lifetime. Puppies have 28 "deciduous" or "baby" teeth. Adult dogs have 42. Just like people, the teeth are divided into incisors (the tiny teeth up front), canine teeth (the four big ones on the front corners), and then premolars and molars toward the back of the jaw. Occasionally, an individual dog may be missing teeth or may have an extra tooth or two.

Baby teeth are generally all present by eight weeks of age and then replaced by adult teeth around six to eight months of age. Sometimes a puppy will have "double fangs" for a bit when the adult canine hasn't pushed the deciduous canine out yet. If the two canine teeth stay, your veterinarian may need to pull the baby ones so the adult canines can erupt normally and not at an angle.

Puppies go through "teething" stages when their teeth are coming in. That means chewing-in some cases a lot of it! Be sure to provide your teething pup with appropriate chew items. Your old slippers are not a good choice, but a pet dental chew can be perfect.

No Fillings

Dogs are lucky in that they rarely get cavities like humans do. The difference in oral bacteria between humans and dogs and the lack of sugary foods in canine diets contribute to that good health. German Shepherd Dogs are one breed that is reputed to have a predisposition to cavities, but even then they are rare.

The most common dental problem in dogs is periodontitis, which is inflammation around the tooth. This is a problem that occurs when bacteria move below the gum line. The resulting bacterial infection may loosen or destroy tooth roots, cause gum abscesses, infect the bony structures of the jaw, and potentially seed bacteria into the bloodstream.

According to the American Veterinary Dental College, most dogs have some degree of periodontitis by three years of age. Dr. Nadine Fiani BVSc of the Cornell Section for Veterinary Dentistry and Oral Surgery says, "Approximately 90% of the canine population will have some degree of this disease by the time they are middle aged. This is why home dental care should start early with your puppy or dog."

Once your dog has periodontitis, a full veterinary dental examination and follow-up cleaning is necessary to return your dog to dental health. The examination may include dental radiographs (x-rays) to determine the damage present to tooth roots and the bones of the jaw. In addition, the depth of infection along tooth roots is measured.

When the extent of the problem has been carefully delineated, treatment starts with a cleaning. Anesthesia is required to do a thorough job. Your veterinarian or a veterinary technician will carefully scale all the teeth. After the cleaning, the teeth will be polished. Any teeth with loose roots or severe damage may need to be pulled. Don't be dismayed if your dog has to have a number of teeth pulled. Once the gums have healed, dogs do fine eating and drinking-even consuming normal kibble with no problem.

Any teeth that have abscesses will also need to be pulled. Any cracked or broken tooth has the potential to abscess. One of the most common locations for a tooth abscess in dogs is the upper fourth premolar. The first sign may be a swelling or a draining tract right below your dog's eye. That shows how far up the tooth roots go!

Antibiotics will often be sent home to help fight the infection. Some dogs may require full veterinary dental cleanings as frequently as once a year.


What can you do at home to prevent periodontitis or at least slow down its progression? The gold standard for dental care is daily toothbrushing. This can be done with a toothbrush, a finger brush, or even a square of gauze with a dental toothpaste or gel on it. Be sure to use toothpaste or gel made for pets. Human products are designed to be spit out and aren't safe for pets. You may need to experiment to find the flavor or product that your dog prefers.

Start by putting a small dab of the toothpaste or gel on your finger and let your dog lick it off. Then move to putting some on your toothbrush or a gauze pad. Next step is to slip the pad or brush under your dog's lip and gently brush the teeth. There is no need to open the mouth widely. You simply need to be able to see the teeth. Most dogs handle this well.

The best way to remember to do this daily is to make it part of your routine. When you are brushing your teeth, you can easily add in doing your dog. Dogs quickly learn the daily schedule and will line up for their toothbrushing as a reminder to you.

When Brushing Won't Work

Some dogs totally resist any type of home cleaning of their teeth. In those cases, you can explore the use of dental chews and dental food additives. Always consult your veterinarian to be sure your dog can safely handle the product in question, especially if your dog is a senior or has any chronic health problems.

The Veterinary Oral Health Council (http://www.vohc.orgl) lists effective products for use in pets. As Dr. Fiani cautions, "It's the best resource we have as far as dental chews/diets and additives. Just keep in mind that the VOHC does not perform independent research or trials on any of the products. They review the research provided by the company."

Products range from liquid to add to your dog's drinking water to a wide range of chews and treats to complete-and-balanced diets with additives to help with dental care. (If you choose a product to add to drinking water, always offer a bowl of plain water as well, in case your dog drinks less of the additive water.) There should be some dental product that will work for every dog.

"Dental chews can help to reduce plaque formation, which is the inciting cause for periodontal disease. However, they are not the gold standard of care as they do not allow subgingival cleaning (where the disease actually takes place). Tooth brushing daily continues to be the best way to maintain periodontal care at home," Dr. Fiani reminds us.

Start the year off right by making a dental care plan for your dog. Begin with daily brushing if possible. Add in dental additives, chews or treats as needed. Your dog will thank you and his smile will stay bright for years to come.

Plaque is Bacteria and Food

Daily brushing is your best defense

Plaque is the buildup of bacteria and food debris on the surface of a tooth. This is soft and easily cleared away with daily brushing os swabbing with a gauze pad. Tartar os calculus is hardened plaque that has bacteria, food debris, and minerals. This results in a hard coating that can't be easily brushed away or removed.

Skip the Scaling: Simply chipping off plaque and tartar does bo real good for your dog. The scaling does remove the tartar but without a follow-up polishing the roughened areas of the tooth are even more conducive for plaque and future tartar building.

Diabetes Connection

Periodontitis and diabetes are a true couple

Diabetes mellitus is considered to be a risk factor for periodontitis. In return, dogs with bad periodontitis have problems with control of their blood glucose and are more likely to suffer from diabetic complications.

Other complications include:

* Bone infection, possible broken jaw

* Bacterial infections

* Heart and/or liver disease

* Sepsis

Does Your Dog Need Braces?

A dog's bite--or tooth structure--can make a difference to his wellbeing

While people may have orthodontic procedures done (think braces) to improve a smile, for dogs, orthodontic procedures are limited to those situations where they are needed to "eliminate pain or serious malfunction, and are not performed for aesthetic reasons," according to the American Veterinary Dental College. Dogs who have had orthodontic procedures done should not be shown in conformation or used for breeding as many defects could be passed along to their offspring.

With those caveats, some dogs can benefit from orthodontic therapies. A dog with a badly positioned tooth that has penetrated or is heading to permeate the gum tissue on the lower jaw or the hard palate on the roof of the mouth needs treatment. Left untreated, a dog may develop an oral-nasal fistula with an opening from the roof of his mouth directly into the nasal passages, which are just above. That might mean braces or it could mean pulling the offending tooth or teeth. Canine teeth are most often involved in those situations--your dog's four "fangs" in the front of his mouth.

A dog who can't chew comfortably due to tooth mal-alignment needs those teeth corrected so he can eat without pain. Chewing discomfort may come from a twisting of the jaw or a mal-alignment further back along the jaw, past the canine teeth. Your veterinarian will need to rule out other dental causes, such as a broken tooth or an abscess. The options then will be evaluated to find one that makes your dog comfortable when he chews.
COPYRIGHT 2018 Belvoir Media Group, LLC
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2018 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:DISEASE
Publication:Dog Watch
Date:Jan 31, 2018
Previous Article:Catching Your Dog's Urine: Nope, that's not Mountain Dew in that little cup...
Next Article:Not Just for Elephants: Peanuts can help strengthen your dog's core muscles.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters