We want the best for our dogs, including protecting their teeth. We try to brush the teeth, but our doggie doesn't always open his mouth. The result is a buildup of tartar that can lead to periodontal disease. Pets can also lose and break teeth when chomping on their favorite bone -- and some breeds are prone to misaligned or crooked teeth. Our pets can't tell us their mouth hurts. We need to watch for problems.
According to the American Kennel Club, dogs as young as 3 show signs of oral disease. Plaque builds up on the teeth and hardens to form tartar. If the tartar isn't removed, the result is gingivitis or inflamed gums. Eventually periodontal disease may develop. Pockets form in the gums creating more places for bacteria to gather. The bacteria can lead to loose teeth, abscesses and infection. Infection travels through the blood where it can affect the heart, liver and kidneys. Brushing your dog's teeth daily can reduce tartar buildup. Some dog foods and treats can reduce tartar.
Loose and Broken Teeth
Besides chomping down on hard objects, tooth loss and broken teeth happen because of age, health, nutritional needs and lack of dental hygiene. The incisors are the most likely to break. A broken tooth exposes the nerve endings, a painful condition for the dog. Food particles can lodge in the area causing bacteria and possible infection. Avoid natural bones. They are abrasive to the dog's teeth. Choose chew toys designed for a dog's teeth. Give your dog quality kibble and schedule him for regular cleanings.
Misaligned and Crooked Teeth
Toy breeds, especially, do not always lose their baby teeth. If the baby teeth do not come out, the adult teeth can grow in unevenly, causing crooked teeth. You may have to have some baby teeth removed when your dog is 10 to 12 weeks of age. By 6 months, all baby teeth should be gone. Misaligned teeth occur when the upper and lower jaws do not line up correctly. The dog may have an overbite or under-bite. This can cause problems chewing food.
Because pets can't tell us their mouth is painful or uncomfortable, we need to look for common signs. The most recognizable sign is bad breath. Bad breath can mean there is bacteria in the mouth. Drooling, a sore mouth, difficulty eating, bleeding gums, pawing or rubbing the mouth, loose teeth, as well as yellow and brown tartar on the teeth are all signs that your dog probably has teeth problems. Only a veterinarian can make the final prognosis.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Pauline Gill is a retired teacher with more than 25 years of experience teaching English to high school students. She holds a bachelor's degree in language arts and a Master of Education degree. Gill is also an award-winning fiction author.