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Dogs Dental Disease


FACTSHEET

 

 

 
 

Contents

 

What kinds of dental problems do dogs have?

Dental disease is as common in dogs as it is in humans. The most common form of canine dental disease is tartar buildup. This causes irritation of the gums around the base of the teeth (gingivitis), resulting in exposure of the roots. Ultimately, this leads to infection and tooth loss.

 

How does tartar form, and what does it do?

Plaque is a gummy substance that forms on the teeth within a few hours after a meal. Within 24 hours, plaque starts to harden into tartar.

 

Tartar is harmful in two ways. First, it serves as a place where bacteria can reside and multiply in the mouth. There is substantial scientific evidence that bacteria from tartar get into the blood stream and are deposited in various organs. Heart and kidney disease may result.

 

Second, tartar builds up at the gum line. As the tartar deposit gets larger, it pushes the gums away from the roots of the teeth. Eventually, the teeth will loosen and fall out.

 

Isn't it correct that dogs that eat dry dog food don't have tartar buildup?

There are many misconceptions about tartar buildup in dogs. Diet plays a role. Because dry food is not as sticky as canned food, it does not adhere to the teeth as much and thus, does not cause tartar buildup as rapidly. However, eating dry food does not remove tartar from the teeth. Once tartar forms, a professional cleaning is necessary.

 

One of the main factors determining the amount of tartar buildup is the individual chemistry (determined by genetics and other factors) in the mouth. Some dogs need yearly cleanings; other dogs need a cleaning only once every few years.

 

What does tartar do to the teeth?

If tartar is allowed to remain on the teeth, several things may happen.

  1. 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.
     

  2. Infection will accumulate in the mouth, resulting in gingivitis (gums), tonsillitis, and pharyngitis (sore throat). Although antibiotics may temporarily suppress the infection, if the tartar is not removed from the teeth, infection will return quickly.
     

  3. Infection within the mouth will be picked up by the blood stream and carried to other parts of the body. Kidney and heart infections frequently begin in the mouth.

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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.

 

Anesthesia is required to thoroughly clean the teeth. Although anesthesia always carries a degree of risk, the modern anesthetics and monitoring equipment in use today minimize this risk, even for older dogs.

 

Depending on your dog's age and general health status, blood may be analyzed before anesthesia to evaluate blood cell counts and organ functions.

 

Depending on your dog's age and organ functions, intravenous fluids may be given to your dog during the anesthesia and teeth cleaning.

 

Before cleaning, a thorough examination of your dog's mouth, tongue, and pharynx (throat) is done. Your veterinarian will check for extra teeth, loose or broken or chipped teeth, teeth defects, retained deciduous teeth, tumors, ulcers, abscesses, foreign bodies, gum infections and inflammations (gingivitis), malocclusion, and other problems. Special attention is paid to areas of gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and periodontitis (inflammation of the membrane lining the tooth socket).

 

There are four steps in the cleaning process that will be used on your dog:

  1. Scaling removes the tartar above and below the gum line. This is done with hand instruments and ultrasonic cleaning equipment.
     

  2. Polishing smoothes the surface of the teeth, making them resistant to additional plaque formation.
     

  3. Flushing removes dislodged tartar from the teeth and helps to remove the bacteria that accompany tartar.
     

  4. Fluoride coating decreases teeth sensitivity, strengthens enamel, and decreases the rate of future plaque formation.

Note: Frequently during teeth cleaning, your dog's loose teeth will fall out, after the tartar has been removed. These teeth were only held in by the tartar. These loose teeth are the source of much pain, discomfort, infection and halitosis and need to be removed for your pet's health. Dogs have 42 teeth and the loss of a few (or many) teeth does not interfere with your dog being able to eat. Surprisingly, pets can get along very well without any teeth.

 

What type of scheduling is needed for teeth cleaning?

It will be necessary to withhold food after 6 PM the night before, and to withhold water after midnight the night before.

 

The dog will need to stay indoors that evening and be kept quiet and safe to insure that no accidents (falls, and so on) occur until complete recovery from anesthesia. If that is not possible, you may elect to have the dog spend the night in the hospital.

 

The recovering dog should be offered small amounts of water and food that evening, after waiting 1 hour after returning home. By the next morning your dog will be completely recovered and you can feed and water normally.

 

If instructed, please give the antibiotic as directed until gone.

 

What is a tooth root abscess?

The root of a tooth may become infected and result in an abscess around the root. This is a painful condition and may be accompanied by fever and loss of appetite. The abscess may secrete pus around the tooth socket. If the last (4th) upper premolar becomes abscessed, a swelling may occur in the skin below the dog's eye, and pus may drain onto the face. The reason for this is that the roots of this tooth enter the sinus area below the eyes.

 

The tooth itself may look sound, but if the tooth root abscess is neglected, it may infect the surrounding bone. The affected tooth needs to be extracted, and the abscess cavity needs to be drained and cleaned. Antibiotics are usually dispensed. Sometimes oral antiseptics are also required.

 

Home Care and Prevention:

Feeding your dog dry dog food and providing dental chew toys will help prevent the buildup of tartar.

 

Brushing your dog's teeth daily is one of the best preventatives. There are dog toothpastes and toothbrushes made specifically for home use for your dog. Some dogs will tolerate this very well, some dogs won't let you near their mouth and may even bite their guardians if attempted. Some dogs will accept some alternative measures including wiping the teeth with a wash cloth with a warm baking soda / water mixture. Some will even allow flossing and for their guardians to chip off tartar as it builds up with their thumbnail!

 

Using a dental rinse to reduce the bacterial count in the mouth is indicated in some dogs.

 

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