Caring for Your Dog’s Teeth


Most dogs will develop periodontal disease during their lifetime. Simply defined, periodontal disease is inflammation of the gums near the teeth. Poor dental hygiene is the main cause of periodontal disease. Often, dog owners will not realize there is a problem until their dogs begin showing signs like bad breath or drooling. What can you do to help prevent tooth and gum problems in your dog? Read on…


Tooth Brushing

Brushing your dog’s teeth starting when she’s a puppy is the single most important thing you can do to prevent periodontal disease in the future. You can use a child’s toothbrush or a toothbrush made for dogs. A fingertip-style brush or even gauze wrapped around your finger will work. Experts recommend using a high quality toothpaste especially made for dogs. Some people use baking soda or salt mixed with water, but be careful not to let your dog swallow them. Never use human toothpaste on dogs, as fluoride is toxic to dogs if swallowed. Start with short sessions a few times a week with puppies. An older dog’s teeth should be brushed as often as possible.


Gum Care

Massaging your dog’s gums, especially the area right around the teeth, is also an important part of good oral care for your dog. Be sure to brush your dog’s gums when you brush his teeth. A dog’s love of chewing hard objects can provide good gum massage too. Giving your dog a bone can cause tooth fractures or splinters. Experts recommend replacing bones with chew toys made from materials like rawhide, nylon, rubber, braided material, or compacted food.


Home Oral Exams

Get your dog used to regular mouth checks, so you can check for any signs of problems. Check the teeth for tartar, fractures, and discoloration. Gums should be checked for inflammation and discoloration. Smell your dog’s breath. Bad breath can be caused by bacteria from debris in the teeth or by infected gums. If your dog’s mouth appears healthy, see your vet about bad breath as it can also be a sign of internal problems like cancer.


Warning Signs

Get to know the warning signs of periodontal disease and other mouth problems. If your dog is eating slowly and carefully, this is usually a sign of mouth pain. Eating with the head tipped to one side or the other indicates pain on one side of the mouth. Problems opening the mouth could be a sign of injury or an oral abscess. Drooling is a common symptom of many mouth and gum diseases, including tumors and cysts. Gagging can also indicate a tumor. As mentioned above, bad breath is a common sign of tooth and gum problems, and also some other potentially serious health issues.


Professional Dental Care

How often should you have your dog’s teeth professionally cleaned? Vets recommend that adult dogs get dentals once a year, even with at home tooth brushing. Similar to your visit to the dentist, your vet will remove plaque and tartar by descaling the teeth. Then the teeth are polished, rinsed, and a plaque prevention coating may be applied. Dogs with advanced periodontal disease may require x-rays, tooth removal, and other types of periodontal surgery.



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  • Aaron Seminoff
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