To keep our dogs healthy, some unflattering tasks have to be done – like the daily poop patrol in the backyard and the often avoided brushing of their teeth. It’s time to improve our dogs’ dental care – for the sake of their health and the size of your wallet. Win-win right?
With the help of two leading veterinary dentists – Dr. Debra Nossaman and Dr. Ben Colmery III – Dogster identified key dental issues facing dogs of all ages and sizes. “Dogs are so good at hiding pain that if a person realizes that something is wrong with their dog, the problem may have progressed,” says Dr. Nossaman, Certified Veterinary Dentist and Co-Founder of Dallas Veterinary Dentistry and Oral Surgery in Texas.
Dr. Colmery, a certified veterinary dentist, co-founder of the American Veterinary Dental Society and owner of Dixboro Veterinary Dental Clinic in Ann Arbor, Michigan, added, “If we can find and fix the problem in the mouth, the dog will have a new life. “Here is the rundown of the top dental problems and how to deal with them:
Red swollen gums
Healthy gums should usually be chewing gum pink, but they can also have pigmentation that is black or has black spots. However, swollen, red, and painful gums signals gingivitis, a condition caused by the buildup of bacteria and tartar on the teeth.
The solution is to have a veterinarian take dental x-rays, examine them, and then do a thorough teeth cleaning while your dog is under anesthesia.
“We have made quantum leaps in improving anesthesia and sedation in veterinary dentistry,” says Dr. Colmery. “Giving pain medication before, during, and after dental procedures has been shown to speed recovery and reduce the level of general anesthesia.”
Dr. Nossaman adds, “If you see the margin next to your teeth becoming red and inflamed, it means gingivitis and the teeth need professional cleaning. Don’t wait for severe gingivitis as your dog is at risk of bone loss or painful periodontal pockets. “
Tartar formation & yellowing of teeth
Your dog can avoid this condition if you brush his teeth daily or at least weekly. You don’t always have to wrestle with your dog to open his mouth and then wiggle a toothbrush coated with toothpaste to reach his back molars.
You can simply wrap a washcloth with dog-safe toothpaste around your index finger and rub the cheek surfaces on both sides to remove the foam from the outside of the teeth. And then reward your dog with a treat.
Dentists casually call this the “flip the lip” procedure.
“Make this a happy event,” says Dr. Nossaman. “Don’t try to pry your mouth open. Dogs have five muscle groups that try to close their mouths. Expect them to wobble and resist. By rubbing the cheeks you can remove about 80% of the material being removed and let the dog’s tongue take the toothpaste to work on the inside. “
Dreaded dog breath
Turning your head and holding your breath might be your first choice, but this action will not help your dog. Instead, be a pet detective and report what you see in your dog’s mouth and pronto describe the foul smell to your veterinarian.
“More than 400 types of bacteria have been identified in the oral cavities of pets,” says Dr. Colmery. “This smell comes from two main sources: something that is wrong in the mouth or something that is not right in the gastrointestinal tract.
“Your dog’s bad breath won’t go away on its own.
“Bad breath is a sign of poor oral health and should be corrected immediately,” says Dr. Nossaman. Talk to your veterinarian about your dog’s diet and consider adding good bacteria in the form of probiotics.
Dogs have a reputation for chewing. What you choose to make them eat can be the difference between intact and broken teeth.
“Do the knee test,” suggests Dr. Colmery in front. “If your dog’s chewing hit your knee and it hurts, then giving it to your dog to chew is not a good idea. Chewing should be pliable and give something. If the chewing is too hard, it won’t give in and the chewing action between the upper and lower molars can lead to broken teeth. “
One tell-tale clue that something is seriously wrong is when you notice your dog suddenly chewing food on one side of his mouth, adds Dr. Nossaman added.
“When the pulp of the broken tooth is exposed, you can see blood,” she says. “If your dog drops nibbles at meal times or doesn’t play with his toys, or gets you involved in a tug of war, he may have a broken tooth problem.”
Depending on the situation, the tooth must be surgically removed or provided with a metal crown.
Dogs, no matter how big, should have 42 adult teeth. But small breeds with smaller jaws have more problems with clenched teeth. Dogs with dented faces, such as pugs, bulldogs, and Shih Tzu, often need to have some teeth removed to get a healthy bite.
“With small dogs in particular, we have to find out which teeth are important and which teeth we can say goodbye and remove,” says Dr. Colmery.
“Unfortunately, we see this far too often when a large dog is crushing a small dog’s jaw in a fight,” says Dr. Nossaman. “Or a dog is kicked in the face by a horse or its head is trapped in a gate.”
Repairs require surgery to wire up the jaw and give it time to heal. “Fortunately, a dog’s jaw doesn’t need metal plates and it’s pretty forgiving.” She says.
Regularly looking into your dog’s mouth can help you spot gum tissue overgrowth, better known as an oral mass or tumor. Tumors can be both benign and cancerous and develop slowly or quickly, says Dr. Colmery.
Oral masses can also indicate that your dog is dealing with health problems outside of the mouth, such as diabetes or kidney disease.
Retained baby teeth
“The general rule is that no two teeth should occupy the same space at the same time,” says Dr. Nossaman. “If left unaddressed, it can affect the dog’s bite and cause teeth to move.”
Another problem: milk teeth can cause infections that affect the adult tooth’s ability to pierce through the gumline and take up its intended position in the mouth.
Surgical removal of stubborn milk teeth may be required.
Dogs rarely develop cavities due to pointed teeth. However, any tooth – in a person or a dog – can flake off. In most of the cases where dogs need metal crowns, police or military dogs are affected.
“We do metal crown work on dogs that have to do bite work,” says Dr. Nossaman. “The crown does not make the tooth stronger, but it does offer some protection.”
But sometimes veterinary dentists use cast metal alloy crowns to repair broken or damaged teeth. These crowns are purposely placed just above the gumline to ensure good oral hygiene.