Dental Disease in Dogs

1How common is dental disease in dogs?

Dental disease is one of the most common medical conditions seen by veterinarians. Over 80% of dogs over the age of three have active dental disease.

Few dogs show obvious signs of dental disease, so it’s up to the dog’s family and veterinarian to uncover this hidden and often painful condition.

 "Over 80% of dogs over the age of
three have active dental disease."

Are dental problems the same in pets and people?

No. In people, the most common problem is tooth decay. It’s caused by the loss of calcium from the tooth’s enamel, resulting in painful, infected cavities (caries). In dogs, tooth decay is rare. The most common dental problems seen in dogs are:

  • periodontal diseases, and
  • fractured teeth.

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What are periodontal diseases?

Periodontal disease is a term used to describe inflammation or infection of the tissues surrounding the tooth. Periodontal diseases occur when the accumulation of plaque and tartar cause either periodontal pockets or gum recession  around the tooth’s attachment. Left untreated, the infection often spreads deeper into the tooth socket, destroying the bone.

"Periodontal disease is a term used to describe
inflammation or infection of the tissues
surrounding the tooth."

How does tartar form and why is it a problem?

6The mouth is home to thousands of bacteria. As these bacteria multiply on the tooth’s surface, they form an invisible layer called plaque or biofilm. Some of this plaque is removed naturally by the dog's tongue and chewing habits.

If allowed to remain on the tooth’s surface, plaque thickens, becomes mineralized  and creates tartar. This tartar accumulates above and below the gum line leading to inflammation (gingivitis) and further accumulation of plaque which leads to periodontal diseases.

Can plaque and tartar be prevented?

The rate at which plaque becomes mineralized will be much quicker in some dogs than in others.

The best way to prevent tartar build-up is through daily tooth brushing using canine toothpaste that is specifically designed to be swallowed. Unfortunately, even though it is the best form of plaque control, most dog owners do not brush their dog’s teeth daily.

Special dog chew toys and treats may also help reduce or delay plaque and tartar build-up. Some pet foods have been specifically formulated as dental diets that mechanically and/or chemically assist in plaque removal. Water additives are also available.

The Veterinary Oral Health Council evaluates dental products for effectiveness. You can visit their website (www.vohc.org) for a list of plaque control products.

"The best way to prevent tartar build-up is
through daily tooth brushing using canine
toothpaste that is specifically
designed to be swallowed."

Will feeding dry food remove tartar?

Pet food manufacturers have recently developed new dental diets that can help reduce the formation of plaque and tartar in your dog. Once tartar has formed, however, professional scaling and polishing under general anesthesia will be needed.

What do broken, chipped or fractured teeth look like in dogs?

The center of the tooth, called pulp, is covered by hard dentin and even harder enamel. Fractures either expose sensitive dentin, termed uncomplicated fractures, or the pulp which contains nerves and blood vessels, termed complicated fractures.

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What causes fractured teeth in dogs?

Most tooth fractures occur when dogs chew on objects that are too hard, like ice cubes, bones, nylon chews, antlers and horse hoofs. Any chew toy or dental treat fed to a dog should bend and “give” upon compression.

What is done to treat fractured dog teeth?

If the pulp is exposed, root canal therapy or extraction are the treatment options.  Leaving the tooth without treatment is not a good idea as infection will have direct entry into your dog.

With gentleness, patience and perseverance you can provide the oral care they need to prevent dental disease.

This client information sheet is based on material written by: Jan Bellows, DVM, Dipl. AVDC, ABVP

© Copyright 2013 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.

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