Canine Dental Care - the key to good living

If you neglect basic canine dental care, then you are sentencing your dog to a life of misery. Canine dental problems are not always obvious and very often only become apparent to owners once they have reached an advanced stage.

With a little bit of effort and regular checking, most canine dental care problems can be detected early and dealt with relatively inexpensively. Here are a number of problems you should be looking for.

Retained baby teeth

If we look at healthy teeth from when you aquire a puppy at say 8 weeks old, then one of the first potential canine dental care problems you need to be aware of is the change from baby teeth (deciduous teeth) to adult teeth.This usually starts taking place at about 3 months of age and is usually completed by 7 months of age.

The thing to look out for is retained baby teeth. This is more common in some breeds (toy breeds seem to be particularly prone to retaining baby teeth).The result is often that the adult teeth coming through are forced out of position in the mouth leading to a poor bite.If you see this happening then it is best to have your Veterinarian remove the baby teeth immediately and the tooth will usually move into it's correct place without further intervention.

Broken Teeth

Broken teeth are relatively common and result from biting or chewing hard objects such as some bones, stones, wire mesh etc.

Depending on where the tooth is broken (and which tooth), it may or may not be painful to the dog. If it it painful you might find your dog reluctant to eat. If you see a broken tooth, then a visit to the vet is in order. In some instances, no action need be taken while in other instances, dental work - either restoration or tooth removal - will be necessary to restore oral health.

Periodontal Disease

Gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums, is the most common canine dental care problem encountered in veterinary practice.It starts with the formation of soft plaque that hardens into dental tartar. It forms along the gumline and eventually comes between the gum and the tooth, creating areas where food and bacteria accumulate, leading to infection and inflammation of the gum. Most dogs will start showing plaque accumulation on their teeth by 2 yrs of age if no action is taken to prevent it from being deposited.

Bad breath or halitosis is a telltale sign that your canine dental care is not up to scratch! In addition, the teeth may show a brownish discolouration close to the gum that is hard and virtually impossible to remove by brushing.

With time the infection and inflammation lead to the root of the tooth becoming infected, the tooth becomes progressively more loose and eating becomes very painful.

Treatment usually involves the removal of severely affected teeth, sometimes resection of the infected gum, and cleaning, descaling and polishing the remaining good teeth. These procedures need to be carried out under very heavy sedation or more usually, under general anaesthetic.

Tooth Root Abcesses

Usually a sequel to periodontal disease, the classic presentation is a swelling or suppurating fissure on the face below the eye when an upper premolar is involved. However, all teeth can have an abcess develop in the root.

This is a painfull condition that needs veterinary attention. Treatment regimes will vary depending on the locality in the mouth, the state of the affected tooth, and unfortunately, your bank balance if you want to attempt to save the tooth.


These are not that common in dogs probably because of dietary factors.However, that is not to say they cannot occur. Again, treatment options really depend on how deep your pockets are. The most cost effective method is probably to extract the offending tooth but there are other options available such as filling the cavity etc.

And remember

Your dog is not going to take itself off to the vet to have his/her annual dentistry check up. It is up to you to be aware of the potential problems, check for abnormalities frequently, and act when you see something amiss.In fact - canine dental care is a human affair!!

Also - don't forget, you CAN be proactive in ensuring good dental health by adhering to the basics of good pet dental care