What do we mean by taking care of our dog's teeth?
By taking care of our dog's teeth, we really mean brushing them, with a brush and tooth paste. Other things such as chews, mouthwash and special food can also be helpful in addition, but should not be viewed as an alternative.
The symptoms of dental disease
Your dog may have dental disease if you notice any of the following:
- Halitosis (Bad breath)
- Difficulty eating or chewing on one side. Remember - many dogs will eat however bad their teeth are!
- Tartar build up (yellow/brown material on surface of teeth, near the gum margin)
- Red or inflamed gums. Especially near the tooth margin.
- Dribbling more.
- A swollen face or part of the face. Often below the eyes.
- Pawing at the face or rubbing on the floor.
- Obviously damaged, broken or loose teeth.
Without regular brushing, the progression of dental disease is almost inevitable in all dogs, but the following breeds are particularly likely to suffer:
- Sight hounds such as Greyhounds and Whippets.
- Terrier breeds with hairy muzzles such as Maltese Terriers.
- Short snouted breeds such as Pugs and Shih-Tzus.
How dental disease develops
- When your dog eats, saliva and lots of bacteria form a clear sticky film over the teeth. This is called plaque. It is invisible at this stage.
- If the plaque is not brushed away, then it eventually turns into a hard brown substance called tartar. Smelly!
- The tartar causes inflammation of the gums.
- Inflammation of the gums is called gingivitis. This can be sore.
- Eventually gingivitis affects the tissue supporting the tooth itself leading to periodontal disease. Very painful!
- The tooth is not properly supported, and can become wobbly, painful and eventually fall out. Ouch!
Not every owner can brush their dog’s teeth and not every dog will let them! There are a variety of reasons for this and don't despair if this is you. Do seek advice from your friendly veterinary team who will be able to advise you on dental care and talk to you about cleaning your dog’s teeth under a general anaesthetic. Removing the built up tartar in this way is the next best thing to regular brushing.