Everything You Need To Know About Keeping Your Dog’s Teeth Healthy

dog holding a blue toothbrush in its mouth

All dog owners want what is best for their beloved pup. To attain this, we often do all that we can to keep them healthy and happy. Buying items such as toys treats, and health care products are just some of the ways that we can help our dogs live the most fulfilling life possible. Exercise, grooming, medical care, and nutrition are often at the forefront of any dog owner’s mind when it comes to their overall health. But what about oral health? Unfortunately, this commonly becomes an afterthought, and your dog may pay a price if this is the case.

There is an abundance of dog products on the market today that cover all different areas of health and entertainment. For oral health, the Veterinary Oral Health Council has provided a list of accepted products to use to help provide your pup with healthy teeth and a happy mouth through proper dental hygiene.

With proper education and strategies, you and your vet can easily ensure that your dog’s oral health is in tip-top shape. Doing so takes up little time and can save you from some major headaches in the future. So, let’s get down to all the ins and outs of dog oral health and how to promote it at home.

Importance of Keeping a Dog’s Teeth Healthy

Keeping a dog’s teeth healthy is a very important part of making sure that your dog is as healthy and happy as possible. Oral health care can prevent your dog from developing a dental problem such as a gum disease called periodontal disease and tooth decay. Dog teeth cleaning can be done both at home or by a professional, though regular dental care with a veterinary specialist is needed.

All of these dental diseases and conditions can lead to other health problems. Your dog’s liver, heart, and kidneys can be affected by plaque and tartar that poor dental health can lead to. The last thing that any dog owner wants is for their dog’s overall health to suffer due to poor dental hygiene, which can easily be avoided and prevented.

puppy with toothbrush in its mouth

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is a gum disease that occurs in dogs of all breeds and ages when their teeth are not properly cared for. This condition occurs when periodontitis bacteria infect the oral cavity of your dog. Typically, periodontal disease is a silent and slow onset, meaning that you won’t notice any signs and symptoms until it has worsened over time.

Bacteria and food particles can collect along the gum line in any dog. When they are not regularly brushed away, they can develop into plaque and eventually harden to become what we know as tartar. This begins the first stage of gum disease, causing inflammation and irritation of the gum line and surrounding areas.

There are some typical periodontal disease symptoms that all dog owners should keep an eye out for. The most common ones include bleeding or swollen gums, brown or yellow discoloration of teeth, bad breath, excessive drooling, and a decrease in appetite. Periodontal disease symptoms can vary by the stage of this condition that they are experiencing. There are four stages of periodontal disease, each ranging in severity and treatment. If you notice one or more of these symptoms in your dog, be sure to get them to the vet as soon as possible. They can help you get your dog’s mouth back to clean and healthy in no time.

Oral procedures are typically required to treat periodontal disease in all dogs. These procedures will always include professional teeth cleaning, regardless of the stage of periodontal disease that your dog is experiencing. During these teeth cleanings, vets will scale above and below the gum line to remove plaque and tartar, polish the teeth, obtain full mouth x-rays, and probe around each tooth to check for abnormal pockets.

If your dog is experiencing stage two periodontal disease, along with teeth cleaning procedures, your vet will likely do a deep cleaning of any abnormal periodontal pockets, as well as apply an antibiotic gel in those areas that will help to close those pockets and prevent any further destruction of the tooth attachments.

For stage three periodontal disease, veterinarians will perform advanced tooth restorative procedures. They will also work with you on a specialized dental care plan to utilize at home, which will help save the teeth that have been affected by this condition.

The most severe stage of periodontal disease is the fourth stage. Treatment during this stage is only possible through teeth extraction.

Treating periodontal disease in dogs is necessary. This dental disease can lead to an abundance of other health issues if left ignored. Jaw fractures, tooth abscesses, oronasal fistulas, eye issues, oral cancers, and organ damage can all be the results of untreated periodontal disease.

dog holding toothbrush in its mouth

Tooth Decay

Tooth decay, also known as cavities in humans, is not as common as gum disease is in dogs. Nevertheless, this condition can still occur and have painful consequences for your pup if it does develop. Cavities are the primary reason for rotten teeth in both humans and dogs, but they only affect about 10% of dogs.

There are a few reasons why dogs are less likely to develop tooth decay than humans are. One reason that tooth decay isn’t a major concern for most dogs is that their saliva is more alkaline, rather than acidic like humans. Dog teeth also have fewer fissures and pits where bacteria and food can get caught. Finally, their diet is lower in carbohydrates than humans, which can help to prevent tooth decay.

Most symptoms and signs of tooth decay can’t be spotted by owners and must be diagnosed by medical professionals. Tooth decay is defined as the destruction of tooth enamel, which is the hard, outer layer of all teeth. Plaque constantly forms on teeth, which leads to acid attacking the enamel. When enamel breaks down, a hole in the tooth appears, and this causes more bacteria to enter the hole in the tooth, leading to tooth decay.

These holes in the teeth are typically spotted during routine dental cleaning. Aside from tooth rot, bad breath is the most common symptom of canine tooth decay. To treat tooth decay, the affected part of the tooth must be removed and then filled with a composite. In severe cases, decayed teeth must be removed completely due to gum disease or a fractured tooth.

Preventing Oral Health Diseases in Dogs

Both periodontal disease and tooth decay are alarming oral health conditions for dogs to face. They can be extremely painful and even lead to other health issues if left untreated. Treatment for these conditions can be very pricey and worrisome for any dog owner. Thankfully, there are a variety of products on the market today that can help keep your dog’s mouth healthy and prevent these diseases. Finding the one that works best for you and your dog is highly recommended. 

The Veterinary Oral Health Council has provided a comprehensive list of approved products for you to use. These products range in usage and can help keep your dog’s mouth free of plaque, tartar, and bacteria that can cause these unwanted conditions.

vet looking at dogs teeth

Toothpaste

All dogs need to have their professional dental cleaning done regularly, about once or twice per year. In between these professional cleanings, it’s a great idea to keep up on brushing your dog’s teeth at home.

Dog toothpaste help to remove bacteria from your dog’s mouth and prevent plaque from affecting organs that filter and pump blood. Most all dog toothpaste contains scrubbing ingredients that help to remove stains and plaque. There is even a specialized type of dog toothpaste called enzymatic toothpaste, which contains enzymes that help reduce bacteria. This can help lessen tartar buildup and improve bad breath.

When utilizing toothpaste for your dog, be sure to not use any type of human toothpaste. Human toothpaste contains Xylitol, which is an artificial sweetener that is toxic for dogs. Xylitol can cause blood sugar drops in dogs, known as hypoglycemia, as well as possible liver damage. To avoid these conditions, be sure to stick to specially formulated dog toothpaste brands.

Toothbrushes

Along with good dog toothpaste, a dog toothbrush is needed to keep your dog’s mouth clean through regular brushing. Dog teeth should be brushed once a day ideally, but no less than once per week. This will remove the film of bacteria that can cover the surface of their teeth.

Dog toothbrushes are made specifically to fit canine teeth, ensuring that all sides and surfaces of the tooth get clean. They come in different sizes for different-sized dogs and are sure to fit snuggly around their teeth, cleaning the gum line in the process.

Some owners prefer to use fingertip dog toothbrushes. These toothbrushes slip on the end of your finger and have bristles on all sides, allowing you to easily get into the deepest corners of your dog’s mouth and scrub away with some toothpaste. No matter the dog toothbrush that you use, their mouth is sure to stay healthy and clean thanks to your regular brushing.

vet brushing a dogs teeth

Dental Wipes

Dental wipes are another great option to keep up on dental care between trips to the vet for deep cleanings. These can be used for dogs who cannot have their teeth brushed, or alongside regular brushing. Dental wipes are used by rubbing them against your dog’s teeth, removing plaque and bacteria in the process.

Dental wipes work in a similar way to dog toothbrushes, though they are unable to get into small gaps between the teeth and may be harder to reach the back of the mouth with. They should not be the only dental care product that you use for your dog. Nevertheless, dental wipes can be a great tool when it comes to keeping your pup’s mouth clean and healthy between professional cleaning appointments.

Dental Treats

Alongside brushing and regular cleaning, dog dental treats are an awesome way to keep bacteria and plaque to a minimum. One great thing about dental treats is that dogs love them just as much as they benefit from eating them. Dental treats often taste great and dogs have no idea that they are actually meant to clean their teeth and not just be a yummy snack.

Dental treats are formulated to remove plaque buildup between professional cleaning sessions. They typically contain ingredients that are known to freshen breath and clean your dog’s mouth, making them the perfect product to keep in your home. These treats come in a variety of sizes, flavors, and forms, so there is sure to be a dental treat on the market that your dog will love.

dog at a dental office

Dental Powder

If you want a simple way to enhance your dog’s oral health, consider using dental powder. Dental powder is a flavored powder that contains ingredients that help to break down plaque, prevent tartar buildup, and freshen the breath. It even contains a probiotic known to help promote healthy bacteria in your dog’s mouth and kill off bad bacteria that can lead to plaque buildup.

Dental powder comes in a variety of different flavors, so you can try various ones and find the one that your dog likes best. Simply add it to the top of their food and watch how it helps their oral health improve over time.

Dental Chews

All dogs love a good chew toy to keep them busy and naw at during the day. Many owners have an abundance of chew toys lying around their home, ready to be picked up and enjoyed by their dog at any moment.

While chew toys are great for entertainment, they also can be very beneficial when it comes to your dog’s oral health. Almost all dog chews help to clean canine teeth. The act of chewing itself benefits your dog’s oral health, no matter what it is they are chewing on.

Chewing helps to scrape the plaque off of your dog’s teeth when they are rubbed against whatever is being chewed. On top of that, many dental chews that are made from meat naturally contain enzymes that help promote dental health. Rubber chews and ropes are strong enough to remove plaque without your dog even knowing.

Pig ears, bully sticks, and antlers are great products to introduce these natural enzymes to your dog’s mouth and remove plaque in the process. Some chews are even specifically made for oral health and contain extra ingredients that help to keep your dog’s mouth clean and healthy.

person with dental tools standing in front of dog

Veterinary Oral Health Council Approval

When shopping for oral health products for your pup, you will notice that there is an abundance of options to choose from. For some dog owners, this can be a little overwhelming at first, and narrowing down which brand and product are the best may seem impossible.

It’s important to remember that any product that you choose should be on the list of accepted products from the Veterinary Oral Health Council. Dental wipes, dental chews, dental treats, toothbrushes, and toothpaste are all covered within this list.

With the Veterinary Oral Health Council acceptance, you know that the product that you are purchasing is the safest and most effective option to offer your dog. Instead of wasting money on products that don’t work well, you can be quickly on your way to having the healthiest mouth for your pup by utilizing these approved products.

Professional Cleaning

While all of these products are essential to use at home, professional cleaning by your vet is absolutely necessary. During these deep cleanings, your vet will be able to get into areas that dog toothbrushes and other products just can’t reach on their own.

During a professional cleaning, your vet will also be able to spot any early signs of oral health diseases such as periodontal disease and tooth decay. Catching these conditions earlier makes treatment much less extensive and can save you some money.

Dogs must be given anesthesia during their deep cleanings. Because of this, be sure that your vet does a full panel of bloodwork before your cleaning. This will let you know that your dog is healthy enough for the medications used during deep cleaning, and it will also check for underlying health conditions that may prevent them from being able to be given anesthesia.

Wrapping Up

Oral health is a very important component of your dog’s overall health, and unfortunately, it can commonly get overlooked. Poor oral health can lead to a variety of serious dental diseases, and even other health issues in the heart, liver, and kidneys.

To avoid these diseases, be sure to introduce various oral health products to your dog’s life. There is an abundance to choose from, and you can easily find the type that works best for you and your pup. With a little extra help from you at home, and professional cleanings when needed, your dog can live a happy, healthy life that is free of dental health problems and concerns. Be sure to reach out to your vet with any oral health questions that you may have.

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