What kinds of dental problems do dogs have?
Dental disease is as common in dogs as it is in people. The most common form
of dental disease in man is decay or caries. In the dog the most common problem
is periodontal disease. Tartar builds up and causes irritation of the gums around
the base of the teeth. The resulting inflammation is gingivitis. The gums ultimate
recede exposing the roots which leads to infection and ultimate tooth loss.
Isn't it correct that dogs that eat dry dog food don't have tartar buildup?
Dry food as well as canine chews and other gnawing toys do reduce the amount
of tartar accumulating on the teeth, probably due to the mechanical abrasive
action. However once tartar has formed, professional cleaning under a general
anesthetic is necessary in order to remove it.
One of the main factors determining the amount of tartar buildup is the individual
chemistry in the mouth. Some dogs need yearly cleanings; other dogs need a cleaning
only once every few years. Tartar is basically the result of a build up of invisible
plaque on the teeth just as with us and dental home care, i.e. getting your
dog used to having his teeth brushed regularly, does cut down on plaque formation
and hence tartar accumulation. This in turn will result in less general anesthetics
for cleaning and polishing throughout the dog's life. Plaque and tartar accumulation
can be prevented today by the use of a variety of products including special
foods, toothpastes, sprays and other agents which help to reduce the amount
of bacterial plaque in the mouth. It is well worthwhile discussing dental hygiene
for your dog with your veterinary surgeon.
What does tartar do to the teeth?
If tartar is allowed to remain on the teeth, several things may happen.
The tartar will mechanically push the gums away from the roots of the teeth.
This allows the teeth to loosen in their sockets and infection to enter the
root socket. The teeth will loosen and fall out or have to be extracted.
Infection will accumulate in the mouth, resulting in gingivitis, tonsillitis,
and pharyngitis (sore throat). Although antibiotics may temporarily suppress
the infection, if the tartar is not removed from the teeth, infection will return
Infection within the mouth will be picked up by the blood stream and carried
to other parts of the body. Some kidney and heart disease may be caused by this
What is involved in cleaning my dog's teeth?
Proper cleaning of the teeth requires complete cooperation of the patient
so plaque and tartar can be removed properly. For the dog anesthesia is required
to thoroughly clean the teeth. Although anesthesia always carries a degree of
risk, the modern drugs in use in practice today minimize this risk, even for
older dogs. Depending on your dog's age and general health status, your veterinary
surgeon may advise a prior blood test to evaluate liver and kidney function
and general health status of the patient.
There are four steps in the cleaning process that will be used on your dog:
Scaling removes the tartar above and below the gum line. This
is done with hand instruments and ultrasonic cleaning equipment.
Polishing smoothes the surface of the teeth, making them resistant
to additional plaque formation.
Flushing removes dislodged tartar from the teeth and helps to
remove the bacteria that accompany tartar.
Fluoride coating decreases teeth sensitivity, strengthens enamel,
and decreases the rate of future plaque formation.
What type of scheduling is needed for teeth cleaning?
An appointment will be necessary and you will be asked not to feed the dog
for approximately eight hours before the procedure. Fluids with the exception
of water should also be withheld. Make an appointment with your veterinary surgeon
and be sure to attend as requested or to telephone if for any reason the appointment
has to be canceled.
On collection you may be asked to return after a few days to check that all
is well, particularly if any extractions have been carried out. Advice regarding
dental prophylaxis, brushing, cleaning and use of anti-plaque products etc.
may be given.
One useful way of getting your dog accustomed to brushing the teeth is to
use an old toothbrush dipped in the dog's dinner since feeding time is, after
all, the highpoint of the day for your pet. Unlike us brushing of the outside
of the teeth is all that is really required. A dog's tongue is sufficiently
mobile that most of the plaque and in consequence, tartar, is removed from the
inside (lingual) surface of the teeth automatically. Once your pet has become
accustomed to this procedure it is a simple step to move to the use of special
toothpastes which, unlike ours, are meant to be swallowed and are usually meat
or malt flavored. DO NOT USE HUMAN DENTIFRICES, these are foaming products and
are not meant to be swallowed and will be universally resented by the dog.
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