A cute poodle with a toothbrush; dog dental diseases

Can you imagine going a whole year without brushing your teeth? Or, even worse, your whole life without visiting a dentist? Just like people, dental care is an important part of our dogs’ overall health and wellness. In fact, neglecting our furry friends’ oral health can mean serious health consequences. This week, we’re looking at common dog dental diseases, including symptoms and causes, and how to recognize them. Next, we’ll look at some guidelines for proper dog dental care and the benefits of annual dental cleanings. 

Most Common Dog Dental Diseases

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is the most common dental condition in dogs. The word “periodontal” means “around the tooth” and refers to inflammation and infection of the teeth’s supporting structures. These include the gums, periodontal ligament, and alveolar bone that supports the teeth. 

Periodontal disease starts when plaque—a sticky film of bacteria—accumulates on the teeth. If plaque isn’t removed through regular brushing or professional cleanings, it hardens into tartar. Tartar irritates the gums and leads to inflammation and infection of the gums, known as gingivitis. Untreated gingivitis progresses to periodontitis, which can cause painful infections and eventual tooth loss. 

Periodontal disease is so common that more than two-thirds of dogs over three years old suffer from it to some degree. The most common signs of periodontal disease are red, swollen, or bleeding gums. You might also notice changes in their eating habits, pawing at the mouth, or reluctance to chew on toys and treats. 

Chipped, Broken, or Fractured Teeth

Dogs use their teeth to eat, gnaw, and play. Unsurprisingly, daily living can take a toll on our pups’ pearly whites. Chipped, broken, or fractured teeth can be caused by external trauma (e.g., running into an object or being hit by something) or chewing on hard objects like bones, antlers, and non-bending chew toys. 

What does it mean for a tooth to be broken or fractured? Let’s look at the anatomy of a dog’s tooth. The center of the tooth, or pulp, contains nerves and blood vessels. The pulp is covered by protective layers of dentin and enamel. This protective enamel chips away when a tooth is broken or fractured, exposing the sensitive dentin. In severe fractures, the innervated pulp can be exposed. Dogs’ most commonly broken teeth are the canine (fang) teeth and the large, upper, pointy cheek teeth in the back of the mouth.

The signs and symptoms of a chipped or broken tooth depend on the severity of the injury. When the enamel is chipped, affected teeth become sensitive to heat, cold, and pressure. Worse yet, cracks in the dentin and enamel give bacteria a place to hide, which can lead to severe infections. You might notice your dog only chewing on one side of the mouth, drooling excessively, or refusing to eat hard food. 

Professional Cleanings Help Prevent Dog Dental Diseases

Regular dental care is crucial for keeping dogs happy and healthy. Early detection of periodontal disease and tooth injuries can prevent painful infections and tooth loss. That’s why regular vet visits and annual dental cleanings are so important.

Before your pet’s routine cleaning, we’ll perform full mouth X-rays and a comprehensive oral exam. This includes checking for “pockets” in your dog’s gums, which can harbor bacteria and lead to infections. X-rays let us see below the surface of the gumline to ensure your pet’s teeth are healthy from root to crown. 

During the dental cleaning, we’ll remove any built-up plaque and tartar, which are the top contributors to dog dental disease. Finally, we’ll polish the teeth, removing microscopic scratches that make it easier for plaque and tartar to accumulate.

Investing in your dog’s dental care is investing in their overall health and happiness. By understanding common dental diseases, recognizing their symptoms, and prioritizing regular dental care, you can ensure your furry companion enjoys a lifetime of healthy smiles. 

Remember: an annual dental cleaning at the veterinarian can make all the difference in your dog’s well-being! Learn more about steps you can take at home to safeguard your pets’ dental health. and prevent common dog dental diseases!


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