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 years have active dental disease. However, few dogs show obvious signs of dental disease. Therefore, it is important to have annual dental examinations and professional cleanings to uncover this hidden and often painful condition.
Tooth decay in dogs is not as common as it is in humans. Rather, the most common dental problems seen in dogs are fractured teeth and periodontal disease.
Most tooth fractures occur when dogs chew on objects that are too hard, such as ice cubes, nylon chews, bones, antlers, and horse hoofs. Any chew toy or dental treat fed to a dog should have some "give" and bend upon compression in order to help prevent fractured teeth.
Normally, the center of the tooth, called pulp, is covered by hard dentin and even harder enamel. When a dog fractures a tooth, the fractures either expose sensitive dentin (called uncomplicated fractures), or expose the pulp which contains nerves and blood vessels (termed complicated fractures). If the pulp is exposed, root canal therapy or extraction are the treatment options. Leaving the tooth without treatment is not a good idea because infection will have direct entry into your dog through the bloodstream.
Periodontal disease is a term used to describe inflammation or infection of the tissues surrounding the tooth. periodontal disease occurs when the accumulation of plaque and tartar cause either periodontal pockets or gum recession around the tooth's attachment. If left untreated, the infection often spreads deeper into the tooth socket, destroying the bone.
The dog's mouth is home to thousands of bacteria and as these bacteria multiply on the tooth's surface, they form an invisible layer of biofilm called plaque. Some of the plaque is removed naturally by the dog's tongue and chewing habits; however, if allowed to remain on the tooth's surface, it thickens, becomes mineralized, ad creates tartar. This tartar accumulates above and below the gum line leading to inflammation (gingivitis) and further accumulation of plaque which leads to periodontal disease.
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 regular brushing using canine toothpaste that is specifically designed to be swallowed and annual dental examinations and professional cleanings. Unfortunately, even though it is a good form of plaque control, most owners do not brush their dog's teeth daily and many dogs go for a year without a professional cleaning. The American Animal Hospital Association recommends at least getting annual dental examinations and cleanings for all dogs over the age of one year.
Some pet foods have been specifically formulated as dental diets that mechanically and/or chemically assist in plaque removal. Water additives are also available. Further, special chew toys and treats may help reduce or delay plaque and tartar build-up. Please consult with our veterinarians regarding the best options for your specific pet. However, once tartar has formed, professional scaling and polishing under general anesthesia will be needed.
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.
This information is not a replacement for a veterinary consultation.
Please visit the following links to our pages providing much more information regarding dental health, dental care, and dentistry at Ahwatukee Animal Care Hospital:
Pet Dentistry: Oral and Dental Care
Brushing Your Pet's Teeth
Dental Care and Diets
If you have questions and/or concerns about your dog's dental health and/or dental care please call us.
Contact us (480) 893-0533.
Call us today to set up your pet's annual dental examination and cleaning!