Your Local Vet Clinic and Animal Hospital
4213 Calgary Trail NW, Edmonton AB

4213 Calgary Trail NW

Edmonton AB, T6J 5P4

(587) 557-2210

Your Local Vet Clinic and Animal Hospital

Dental Disease in Dogs

dental disease in dogs

Dogs over 3-years-old likely have periodontal disease. To prevent dental disease in dogs learn about professional cleaning and home care

Periodontal disease is one of the most common health issues in veterinary medicine. Even if your dog’s teeth look pearly white and clean, studies show that 80-90% of dogs over the age of 3 have some component of periodontal disease. It’s worse in smaller breeds, and the incidence increases with age.

Unfortunately, periodontal disease is usually not recognized until it is at an advanced stage. Early diagnosis is often difficult because there are often no outward signs of a problem, and the main culprit cannot be seen during a routine visual inspection.

What is this main culprit in dental disease? Plaque. Especially underneath the gums.

This is not to be confused with that unsightly golden brown tartar that accumulates on your dog’s teeth over time. It harbors bacteria and odor, but it is not the main player in periodontal disease.

Remember that plaque, not tartar, is our enemy in the war against periodontal disease and tooth loss.

Plaque, an invisible bacterial slime (or biofilm), is laid down by bacteria on the surface of the tooth, above and below the gum line. It causes inflammation of the gums (gingivitis), creates deep gaps between the tooth and gum (periodontal pockets), and damages periodontal tissues beneath the gums (periodontitis), all of which eventually results in tooth loss, with a lot of unnecessary pain and discomfort along the way.

Prevention

Your efforts in trying to prevent gum disease will go a long way toward keeping your dog healthy, comfortable and alive for as long as possible.

Successful prevention of periodontal disease requires three components

 1. the owner, who must brush the teeth properly.

 2. methodical training program with positive reinforcement- slow but effective

  3. annual professional oral evaluation and treatment, which is done under general anesthesia.”

Preventing periodontal disease is important for your dog’s overall health, as it has been linked to liver and heart disease. Besides, periodontal disease is painful, even if your dog doesn’t seem to show signs of pain.

If a dog has periodontal disease, what signs of pain might they show? Pawing or rubbing at the mouth, drooling, decreased appetite, taking longer to finish meals, change in eating habits (carrying food away from the bowl and dropping it on the floor before eating it), mouth odor, bleeding from the mouth, reluctance to chew favorite chew toys, aggressive behavior or withdrawal from the family are all possibilities Again, if you notice any of these things, your dog’s disease is already advanced.

Lastly foul smelling stinky breath may indicate early dental disease but its always presnet on advance dental disease.

The best approach to periodontal disease prevention is regular professional veterinary dental cleanings and a good daily home care program program.

Professional cleaning

A lot goes into a veterinary dental cleaning. It starts with your veterinarian obtaining an accurate history, performing a full physical exam including an awake oral exam.

Pre dental evaluations are offered at Gateway Veterinary centre and are free of charge.  Your veterinarian will then have a thorough discussion with you regarding preliminary findings and treatment plan.

Next, your dog will be placed under general anesthesia with careful, continuous monitoring by a licensed veterinary technician throughout the procedure. An extensive visual exam is performed, and the mouth rinsed with antiseptic. Grossly evident tartar is removed, crowns are examined, gingival pockets are probed and measured, and ultrasonic scaling of all tooth surfaces above and below the gum line is performed for plaque removal.

At this point, any necessary surgical procedures (like extraction of diseased teeth) are performed. Next, all remaining teeth are thoroughly polished, above and below the gum line. A final rinse and inspection follows.  Post-procedure oral antibiotics may be prescribed if needed.

Your dog will recover from anesthesia with continued monitoring, while your veterinarian finishes recording procedure notes and prepares comprehensive discharge instructions for you. A follow-up exam is frequently recommended, especially if surgical procedures were performed.

Home care

Home dental care is just as important as the professional cleaning. Studies have shown an immediate improvement in the sub-gingival bacterial population after a professional dental cleaning, but it doesn’t last long. Within days, the bacteria are back at it, laying down plaque.

The mainstay of a successful home dental program is daily tooth brushing with a veterinary paste. Human paste is not recommended, as it contains detergents and fluoride. We spit all that out. Your dog swallows it.

Many veterinary pastes contain enzymes that break down plaque. The paste is meant to be brushed on and left there to continue its work. Brushing once a day is important as the bacteria are busy little beavers. You want to get in there and break up what they are laying down every day to prevent it from advancing under the gums.

How-to

If possible, start brushing your dog’s teeth after all the adult teeth have emerged. Start with just saying something you’ll say every time, like “teeth time.” Begin by simply running your finger along the outside of the lips once and give a reward (treat or toy). Once your dog is looking forward to this, run your finger along the gums and reward.

After your dog thinks this is great, put the paste on your finger. Let them smell and taste it, then run it along the gums and reward. Once your dog is good with this, gently add the brush. When your dog will let you do some brushing action with paste along the outsides of all the teeth, then you both have graduated.

In addition to daily brushing, your veterinarian may recommend a prescription plaque and tartar control diet can be tried.

Bottom line

Successful prevention of periodontal disease requires both daily brushing by you at home and regular professional veterinary cleanings under general anesthesia.

Advanced periodontal disease that results in tooth extraction is a shame because it was likely preventable. In addition, it probably caused a lot of unnecessary pain and discomfort along the way.

Debunking dental myths

1. “My groomer brushes my dog’s teeth.”

But that’s still only every month or two, and doesn’t provide the benefits of daily brushing.

2. “My wife is a dental hygienist, and she scales the dog’s teeth.”

While that might help with tartar, remember that it’s plaque, not tartar, that causes the big problems.

3. “My dog has a heart murmur, so they can’t go under anesthesia.”

Your dog’s heart murmur is all the more reason to keep their mouth healthy and clean. Granted, they will require some extra due diligence to make sure the benefits of the procedure outweighs the risks. The gold standard of care would include referral to a veterinary cardiologist for a cardiac consultation with an echocardiogram before the dental procedure. Then the cardiologist will give your veterinarian a thumbs up or thumbs down, along with specific recommendations for making the procedure as safe as possible.

4. “My dog is too old to go under anesthesia.”

Well, they may be old, but they’re still alive. And possibly experiencing pain that will worsen for the rest of their life if you don’t do something. There’s no sense waiting on advanced periodontal disease. It is just going to keep getting worse. The biggest anesthetic risks for dental patients are low blood pressure and low body temperature, since the procedure takes time. Remember though, there are dedicated licensed veterinary technicians in the room to continuously monitor your dog.

Table of Contents

Further Reading