Dog Dental Care - An important aspect of long term dog health

How does dental health impact the overall health of my dog?

The teeth affect the dog's health in a lot of different ways. More importantly, if the teeth are unhealthy, the abnormal bacteria can get in the bloodstream and affect things such as the heart and heart valves, kidneys, and liver.

How can I care for my dog's teeth at home?

There are a bunch of ways to care for your dog's teeth at home. First off is brushing, just like we brush our teeth on a daily basis. If it's possible, that should be done on a pet as well. If brushing is not a possibility for you, there are various dental chews, dental treats, and there are specific foods that have a dental benefit to them in that they help to brush off or wipe off the plaque from the tooth surface. Any or all of those methods that you can combine are ways that you can prevent dental disease at home.

What are some signs and symptoms of dental disease in dogs?

The most common sign that everyone is familiar with is the smell. The dogs want to get right in your face. They want to lick you, kiss you, and that kind of thing. And they just have this odor. So the smell is going to be one of the first signs that a lot of owners pick up on.

If you're being a little bit more astute, you can see things such as tartar or calculus built up on the teeth. You can see gingivitis, which is a redness or inflammation of the gums. And in more severe cases, it's called periodontal disease. That's where you can actually begin to have some pus under the gums, you can have loose teeth, and those kinds of things. Again, all of these are accompanied by that lovely odor that we all associate it as dog's breath.

What are some of the most common dental diseases in dogs?

The dental disease could simply be periodontal disease. That's the most common thing that we see. It's a bit rare, but you can have cysts, and you can have various types of growth like an epulis, which is a benign growth. You can have some melanomas and other not-so-benign growths in the mouth. Those are probably the big ones that I see.

Why is early detection and diagnosis of dental disease so important?

It's like anything else. The sooner you can detect it, the sooner you can treat it and remedy the problem, or take away the problem altogether. Treating teeth issues early on is no exception to that.

Pet dental care does get overlooked a lot. I will tell you that in examinations that we do, that is arguably one of the most common things we see on almost every appointment...not every, but almost every. And it tends to get swept under the rug a lot. Would we do that to you and me? No, we probably wouldn't. So addressing it early—before you do have periodontal disease, loose teeth, bad breath, and pain on eating—is best. I skipped that one earlier about the pain with eating, but the dogs sometimes can be painful when they're eating. Why let it get to that point? Early detection and hopefully early cleaning help to alleviate all of those problems.

How often should my dog's teeth be checked?

Checking it at a minimum of annually—when they come in for their physical exam and potentially vaccinations on an annual basis—is best. At a minimum, teeth should be checked then. There are a lot of dogs that are more problematic than others, and sometimes maybe a twice-yearly exam would be warranted. Some of these dogs that I'm mentioning have to have their teeth cleaned twice a year. So, once to twice a year would be my answer there.

What does a professional dental cleaning for a dog look like?

It looks ironically similar to our professional cleaning. The only difference being you can't ask a dog to sit still while you probe around and under their gum line. So we do require general anesthetic to do a proper cleaning. Once the animal is under anesthetic and intubated, the cleaning process is almost identical. We do digital X-rays of the gums and teeth. We use an ultrasonic scaler, handheld instruments, we polish, we use fluoride afterward—the whole nine yards.

Dog Dental Care - FAQs

What is the vet looking for during a dog dental exam?

Basically, we're just looking for anything abnormal. To say that there's one thing I'm searching for is not true. It's just once you know what a normal mouth and healthy gums look like, you're looking for anything that varies from that—tartar, gingivitis, any of those things. So we start there, and then we kind of dig a little deeper if necessary.

What kind of dental and oral problems can dogs have?

Very similar to people, actually. The most common and commonly seen and most common disease process is simple gingivitis. This is an inflammation of the gums, but that often progresses into various stages of periodontal disease, where you have now some soreness of the gums, maybe a little bleeding, and the tooth might be loose. We see masses or growths in the mouth. You can have oral-nasal fistulas. You can have broken teeth. There are tooth root abscesses. So, we see all of these things.

Why does my dog need X-rays?

X-rays are usually done during the course of routine dental cleaning, and that is to help us see under the gum line. I used to not have an X-ray, and I missed so many teeth that I didn't even know were affected or diseased under the gums. Sometimes you will have issues along the root where you have bone loss along the root of the teeth. There's no way to see that by looking at the crown. So X-rays allow us to look under the surface so we can get a better idea of the health of that tooth.

Are issues addressed during my dog's initial oral exam, or do I need to schedule a follow-up appointment?

Most of the time a follow-up appointment would be required. It depends on what the issue is. If it's simple gingivitis, maybe a brief round of anti-inflammatories or antibiotics can be given on that visit and that takes care of the issue. But if there's enough disease there or tartar there that requires treatment or dental cleaning, then, of course, they would have to return at a later date for the process to be done.

Why would my dog need extractions?

Broken teeth. Not any broken tooth, but if the break has extended into the pulp of the tooth, that may need to be extracted to alleviate pain or prevent the future formation of an abscess. Severe periodontal disease is arguably the most common thing we see. If you have a tooth that's diseased to that point, it's often much more effective and healthy for the dog to just take that tooth out and not allow it to continue to be a source of chronic infection.

If you have any questions, reach out to us. You can contact us directly here at the office by calling (337) 223-9581. Please reach out if you have any questions and we'll try to do our best to take care of you.