Canine Dental

Did you know that 85 percent of dogs over age 4 have some form of gum disease?  Gum disease is one problem, but other problems include crooked, cracked or loose teeth, an infection or an abscess.

A lot of times it is hard to tell if your dog is in pain due to mouth problems.  Some of the signs are:  changes in eating habits or loss of appetite, unusual night awakenings, rubbing the face against objects or swelling of the face.

If you suspect any kind of a problem you should check with your vet.  If there is a problem, your vet may refer you to a veterinary dentist.  If a procedure such as a tooth extraction or professional cleaning is required, your dog will probably be given a general anesthetic to make him more comfortable during the procedure.  But it should all be worth it, because when he wakes up he the pain should be gone!

Does Your Dog Have A Loose Tooth?

Loose teeth in puppies are normal.  Puppies have deciduous teeth which are similar to baby teeth in humans.  Their deciduous teeth will fall out to make room for their larger, permanent teeth.  Your puppy will have frequent loose teeth between four and six months old.  Owners don’t usually find baby teeth, because puppies usually swallow them.  By the time your puppy is about seven or eight months old, he should have most if not all of his permanent teeth.

While your puppy is loosing his deciduous teeth, you should periodically check inside his mouth.  It is common for puppies to have retained baby teeth.  This is where the deciduous tooth hasn’t completely fallen out, but the permanent tooth is coming in.  If there are two teeth occupying one spot in your puppy’s mouth, you should check with your vet.  He may need to extract the baby tooth because the adult tooth may come in crooked, which could cause problems later on.

A loose tooth could be more of a problem for an adult dog.  The cause could be from trauma to the mouth or from gum loss due to advanced periodontal disease.  It could also be a sign of illness.

If your adult dog has a loose tooth, see your vet.  An X-ray may be performed to examine the tooth’s root or an overall exam may be performed to screen for health issues.  It is very rare for a loose tooth to correct itself, so your vet will probably want to remove the tooth.

Does Your Dog Have Crooked Teeth?

Misaligned teeth can also be a problem.  When the adult teeth are crooked your dog may have a malocclusion which is a misalignment of the upper and lower jaw.  If the misalignment of the upper and lower jaw are extreme,  your dog may have problems chewing his food.

Standard protocol dictates that a dog’s crooked teeth should be corrected only if they are causing the dog pain or preventing him from eating or drinking normally.  Have your dog evaluated by a veterinary dentist if his bite seems to be causing him problems.  Your dog won’t get braces to realign his teeth, but there are other ways to help realign your dog’s teeth or to help provide relief for your dog–such as extracting or capping the problem tooth.

Does Your Dog Have Swollen, Bleeding Gums?

Periodontal disease is the most commonly diagnosed oral problem in dogs.  A symptom of periodontal disease is swollen, bleeding gums.  When plaque builds up on your dog’s teeth and changes into a brownish substance, your dog can start having problems.  The brownish substance is called tarter.  Gingivitis develops when the tarter moves under the gum line and red, puffy gums develop.  If it is left untreated, the gingivitis will progress into periodontal disease.  Periodontal disease causes the gums to recede and lose their function which can eventually lead to tooth loss.  Periodontal disease also introduces infection, which can travel in the bloodstream to the heart, liver or kidneys.


All dogs can get periodontal disease.  Contributing factors include the reaction of the dog’s immune system, age, diet and chewing habits.  It is best for your dog to have routine dental care which consists of at-home tooth brushing, good quality chews and periodic dental exams by a professional.

If your dog is leaving spots of blood after chewing on a chew toy, has brown tarter on his teeth or his gums look inflamed and sore, you should check with your vet.  Giving your dog a professional tooth cleaning early, can remove the tartar and help to stop the progression of gum disease.


Has Your Dog Chipped, Cracked Or Broken Off Part Of His Tooth?

Keep a watchful eye on what your dog chews on.  Chewing on the wrong object can break or crack a tooth.  Breaking or cracking a tooth can happen from chewing on rigid, solid objects or from an impact injury, tugging games or play that is too-rough.

slab fracture is a common type of broken tooth in dogs.  This is caused by forcibly biting down on a hard object which results in a section of the tooth to flake off.  This could be anywhere from a chip to a larger section of the tooth.

The nerve of the tooth may become exposed if the tooth is cracked or broken.  As many of us know, an exposed nerve can be very painful.  The nerve may eventually die and the pain could go away but this probably isn’t the end of your dog’s problems.  The tooth could become infected, the pain could return and bacteria could appear.

Do not let your dog chew on solid, rock hard objects.  Brittle bones or hooves, rocks, crate railings or solid posts should be avoided and chew toys should be somewhat flexible.

If you suspect that your dog has a cracked or broken tooth, see your vet.  Treatment will depend on how badly the tooth has been damaged.  An  X-ray is usually required to determine the damage.  Extraction of the tooth, a root canal or a vital pulpotomy can be performed.  A vital pulpotomy is a procedure that is usually done in younger dogs if the tooth and root are otherwise in good health.

Does Your Dog Have A Tooth Root Abscess?

A tooth root abscess is one of the more agonizing oral problems your dog may experience.  It occurs if the root of the tooth became exposed to bacteria, which can happen from a crack or break, or from advanced gum damage due to periodontal disease, and an infection has set in.

Difficulty eating such as dropping food, tipping his head to one side or not eating at all can be symptoms of an abscess.  Facial swelling can occur as the abscess builds up.  His eye could look infected or inflamed depending on which tooth is affected.

If your dog has a bump, swelling or a localized area of the gums that looks red and angry–you have most likely found the abscess.  It could spread to surrounding teeth, so you may not be able to tell which tooth is affected.

A tooth root abscess is very painful, so get your dog to the vet immediately.  An X-ray will be performed to tell how bad the abscess is.  Options include trying to save the tooth with a root canal procedure or extracting the tooth.  Dog antibiotics and pain medication will probably also be prescribed for your dog.

Dogs usually don’t experience as many dental problems as humans do, but if something suspicious arises make sure you get your dog to the vet as soon as possible.  It is important to take care of your dog quickly to relieve your dog’s pain and to protect his health and well-being.

Filed under: Dog Care

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