In private practice, people often ask me why so much focus is now put onto dental care and hygiene for dogs. “Our parents didn’t brush our dog’s teeth, so why should we?”
Dogs simply live so much longer now than before and their needs have changed. Through improved knowledge, better education, better diets and advances in parasite control and medicine, our pets can live to be twenty!
Dog Teeth Basics
Dogs, like people, have two sets of teeth. Their temporary teeth (all 28 of them) start erupting between 4-6 weeks of age. Between 4-6 months of age, these are then replaced by the 42 permanent teeth. So don’t be alarmed when you see your pup loosing teeth at the age of 4-6 month, this is likely normal.
Dogs have 4 types of teeth: Incisors (for nibbling), canines (for grabbing and tearing), pre-molars (for tearing and cutting) and molars (for grinding). Puppies don’t really need to grind their food and therefore don’t have any molars.
Without going into too much detail, the diagram below shows the basic structure of the tooth:
The crown is the part visible to us above the gum line and is covered by white, glossy enamel. The roots are hidden below the gum line and imbedded in the jaw bone. The pulp cavity is where most of the nerves and blood vessels run. Our teeth look the same!
Why Clean their Teeth?
Regular oral-care helps in several ways:
- It reduces bad breath by limiting the number of bacteria in the mouth
- It reduces the build-up of plaque, food and bacteria on the teeth
- It limits the development of tartar (calcified plaque) on the teeth
- It promotes gum health
And it’s really not as complicated or time consuming as it sounds!
What can WE do?
- Brush, brush, brush! Daily brushing is the key. Use a flat, soft, flat profile dog tooth brush and a registered dog tooth paste. Start them young! Initially brush with your finger and toothpaste (just to get them used to the idea) and later introduce the brush. Divide the mouth into roughly 10 parts and brush 2-3 teeth at a time. Brush horizontally 3 times across the selected teeth and then make a fourth stroke outward from the gum to the crown, 40 strokes for the outside surfaces of all the teeth. Quick and easy. Do the same for the inner surfaces, close to the tongue. Have a look at this you-tube clip to see how it’s done: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lR8bLPRkXkE
- Use pet oral rinse – like mouth wash for dogs. Simply squirt a small amount into the cheek pocket, about an hour after dinner. Ask your Vet or Vetshop to help you find a pet approved product.
- Regularly offer dental treats. Raw hide chews work well. These are usually made of cow hide and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Ensure you choose the correct size for your dog and always watch your dog’s when they eat these treats, as aggressive chewers can break off whole pieces, which could cause gastrointestinal upsets or blockages. There are also variety of registered Dental treats available on the market that help to keep teeth clean.
- Carefully select the diets you feed your dogs. Many veterinary dog diet manufacturers are making their kibble bigger or firmer to help with mechanical cleaning of teeth. Others use special coatings to reduce tartar build up and bacteria.
- Chew toys made of tough rubber and nylon can also help to mechanically clean the teeth and they are fun!
- Book regular vet visits to have your dog’s teeth checked and cleaned.
And if WE Don’t?
Cavities (or caries) are not common in dogs. In dogs, the build-up plaque and tartar on the surface of the teeth, leads to periodontal disease with gum infections, loss of teeth and pain.
Small breed dogs seem more prone to the build-up of tartar and periodontal disease. This is likely because they are often fed softer foods that don’t assist in the mechanical cleaning of the teeth, but the ph (acidity) of their saliva is also speculated to play a role.
Other Common Tooth Problems in Dogs:
Retained temporary teeth: When the temporary teeth don’t fall out as the permanent teeth come through, they can cause problems with the position and normal development of the permanent tooth. These retained temporary teeth will often be removed as a precaution when your dog is anaesthetised for sterilisation. If you notice that your dog has retained temporary teeth, discuss this with your vet.
Broken and fractured teeth: Perhaps because of their ancestry, where any sign of pain was seen as weakness, we often don’t realise that our dogs are in pain. A broken tooth can be very painful! Chewing on wood and rocks, as well as trauma to the mouth, can break teeth. Dogs may be reluctant to eat, but broken teeth are often a coincidental finding when the mouth is fully examined. You would pick this up when you do your daily brushing! These teeth generally need to be removed under general anaesthetic and you need to contact your vet to make an appointment.
Tooth root abscesses: These often present as a swelling below the eye, when the root of the carnassial tooth (the 4th Premolar in the top jaw) becomes infected. These teeth need to be removed under anaesthetic and your dog will be put onto antibiotics and anti-inflammatories for approximately a week after the extraction.
In Conclusion, as we can see, regular brushing and oral hygiene helps prevent periodontal disease in our dogs and also makes sure we check all the teeth daily and pick up any other problems early. Let’s help our loyal friends keep their teeth healthy, well into their golden years.
Oral Care Products:
*Each of our stores stock a variety of products, some stores will stock different products to the next to cater for the needs of the clients in that particular area, if you are looking for a specific product please contact one of our stores closest to you, they can inform you if they have the product on hand or will be able to order if it for you.