Dental Disease in Dogs

Feb 8, 2017 | Dental, Dogs

How common is 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 have active dental disease.

Unfortunately, few dogs show obvious signs of dental disease. Often professional dental cleaning and treatment comes too late to prevent extensive periodontal disease or to save teeth. It is up to the dog’s family and veterinarian to uncover this hidden and often painful condition.

Are dental problems the same in pets and people?

No. In people, the most common problem is tooth decay, which results in painful, infected cavities. In dogs, tooth decay is rare. The most common dental problems seen in dogs are:

  • periodontal diseases
  • fractured teeth

What are periodontal diseases?

Periodontal disease is a term used to describe inflammation or infection of the tissues surrounding the tooth. Periodontal diseases range from gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) to periodontitis (loss of bone and soft tissue around the teeth). Periodontal diseases occur when the accumulation of plaque and tartar on the teeth spreads under the gum line and cause either periodontal pockets or gum recession. When left untreated, the infection often spreads deeper into the tooth socket, destroying the bone.

There is a wide range in the appearance and severity of periodontal disease that often cannot be fully evaluated or treated without general anesthesia for veterinary patients.

Can plaque and tartar be prevented?

The rate at which plaque, which is caused by the growth of normal bacteria in the mouth, becomes mineralized into tartar will be much quicker in some dogs than in others.

The best way to prevent tartar build-up is through daily tooth brushing using canine toothpaste that is specifically designed to be swallowed.

Special dog chew toys and treats may also help reduce or delay plaque and tartar build-up. Some pet foods have been specifically formulated as dental diets that mechanically and/or chemically assist in plaque removal. Water additives are also available.

The Veterinary Oral Health Council evaluates dental products for effectiveness. You can visit their website ( for a list of plaque control products.

Once tartar has formed, however, professional scaling and polishing under general anesthesia will be needed.

What do broken, chipped or fractured teeth look like in dogs?

The center of the tooth, called the pulp, is covered by hard dentin and even harder enamel. Fractures either expose sensitive dentin, termed uncomplicated fractures, or the pulp which contains nerves and blood vessels, termed complicated fractures.

What causes fractured teeth in dogs?

Most tooth fractures occur when dogs chew on objects that are too hard, like ice cubes, bones, nylon chews, antlers and horse hoofs. Any chew toy or dental treat fed to a dog should bend and “give” upon compression.

What is done to treat fractured dog teeth?

If the pulp is exposed, root canal therapy or extraction are the treatment options. Leaving the tooth without treatment is not a good idea as infection will have direct entry into your dog.

With gentleness, patience and perseverance you can provide the oral care they need to prevent dental disease.

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