All of us want our pets to live a long and healthy life. We take them to the vet, make sure they eat good-quality pet foods, get enough exercise… But how much time are you spending on your dog’s dental care? Many dog owners often overlook oral hygiene, which is the main cause of dog dental problems. But by brushing your dog’s teeth, at least a couple of times a week, you can avoid much more than just your puppy’s bad breath. It also helps prevent tartar buildup, tooth decay and other more serious dog dental problems.
Daily tooth cleaning and occasional veterinary dentist visits are the best way to help your dog’s pearly whites stay as healthy for as long as possible. A routine dental cleaning every night with dog-specific dental products will be so well worth it in the long run.
So let’s take a deeper look into our dogs’ dental hygiene and what there is that we people can do to help them keep their beautiful smiles for as long as possible. Shall we?
Back to basics: How many teeth do dogs have?
Before we start talking about the different teeth problems that our pet dogs can have, let’s first start with the basics: How many teeth do dogs even have in the first place? To know if your dog is suffering from tooth loss, you should first know how many teeth your dog even has in the first place.
Puppies naturally start out with temporary teeth. Just like we do. They are born with 28 milk teeth, which start to come in two weeks after they are born. After 8 to 10 weeks, a puppy’s teeth are all grown out.
If you have ever had a puppy, you know how sharp these teeth are. Puppies love to bite your fingers and will chew on ANYTHING they can get their mouths on. But their baby teeth are so sharp for a reason. Puppies need a little help chewing because their jaws aren’t as strong as an adult dog’s jaws.
Dogs quickly lose their baby teeth. After about four months, the first ones start to fall out. Then, when they are about 5 or 6 months old, their adult teeth start to come in. Lastly, your dog will have a total of 42 adult teeth once its premolars and molars come in at about 7 to 8 months of age. If your dog’s baby teeth didn’t all fall out, you’ll need to take him to the vet.
Types of dog teeth
Now that we cleared up how many teeth dogs have, you might be wondering what types of teeth they have. Because, just like us humans, they have differently shaped teeth for different purposes. There are four different kinds of teeth in a dog’s mouth. All of them serve a certain function.
These are your dog’s small teeth in the front of his mouth. They have 12 incisors in total, six on top and six on bottom. Their job is to break up food, like ripping meat off a bone.
The sharp teeth on either side of your dog’s mouth are called canines. They are also called “fangs.” Two are on top and two are at the bottom. Their job is to poke holes in things and hold on to them.
These are the ones behind the canine teeth. They have a total of sixteen, with eight on top and eight on the bottom. The main thing they do is chop up the food.
The dog’s 10 molars are in the back of its mouth. Four of them are on top and six are on the bottom. They are used to break food down.
Prevention is key: How to brush a dog’s teeth?
Before you look out for any symptoms of dog dental problems, you should first learn what the right way to brush your dog’s teeth is. Trust us, is extremely simple. All you need is some dog toothpaste, a dog toothbrush, and a whole lot of patience.
Put a little bit of toothpaste on a toothbrush. Hold the dog’s upper lip and brush his teeth slowly. Start by brushing his upper teeth. Go from the front to the back of the teeth in a straight line. Only the tooth surface needs to be done. Don’t worry about what’s inside because the dog’s tongue will take care of it. In fact, 96 percent of the tartar on a dog’s teeth is on the outside. So, this is the side you need to pay attention to.
After cleaning the upper canine teeth, brush their lower teeth next. You can also brush the inside of your dog’s teeth, even though it’s not necessary if he or she lets you. End the time spent brushing with praise and treats. Your dog will learn that brushing his teeth is a good thing over time.
How to pick the right toothbrush?
Picking our own toothbrush is hard enough, there are so many options from color and material to softness. But picking out the best toothbrush for our canine friends is even more confusing. What do dogs care about when it comes to toothbrushes? Well, as it turns out… size! Yes, size does matter. Especially when we are talking about canine toothbrushes.
When choosing the right toothbrush for your dog, the size of your dog is one of the most important things to think about. Toothbrushes for bigger dogs need to be bigger, have longer handles, and bristles on both sides. A longer handle will make it easier for you to reach the back of your dog’s mouth. If you have a tiny canine, a small toothbrush with a shorter handle will be just fine.
Also, don’t forget to change the toothbrush your dog uses often. That’s why it’s easiest to buy your dog’s favorite toothbrush in a pack of two. This will not only be more useful, but it will also save money and reduce the amount of waste from packaging.
What about toothpaste?
Now toothpaste will be a bit more tricky. Because it has to be something that tastes decent enough for your dog not to hate it. Yes, even though your dog enjoys chewing on your old, smelly shoes, he can still be repelled by the taste of toothpaste.
You can buy different kinds of toothpaste in pet shops and see which one your dog likes the best. However, you can also try making a DIY toothpaste.
Good, well-rounded dog toothpaste can sometimes be very expensive. Luckily, these ingredients for dog-friendly toothpaste are cheap, and most of us already have them at home. Many recipes for homemade dog toothpaste include things like coconut oil, bouillon, and broth.
Baking soda is a pretty common ingredient as well. It works as a mild abrasive and also gets rid of smells. But you should be careful. Baking soda is fine to eat in small amounts, but more than that could give your dog an upset stomach.
Can I clean my dog’s teeth without brushing them?
Yes, you can theoretically clean your dog’s teeth without brushing them. However, it won’t be nearly as effective, and you won’t get fully rid of bacterial plaque and tartar form on your dog’s teeth. We do not recommend this method, but it can be used in-between brushing. But don’t forget that besides all of that your dog still needs an occasional visit to the veterinary dentist.
One of the most common ways is to give your dog dry food. Unlike wet food, dry food has a crunchy texture. So while your dog enjoys its food and crunches on it, it is also fighting plaque and tartar buildup.
You can feed your dog any kind of kibble or dry food. But there are also many brands of dog food that are made to help clean a dog’s teeth while it eats. But we do need to say it one more time. This won’t work in the long run. Your dog’s teeth still need to be brushed.
If you don’t want to brush your dog’s teeth, you might want to get them dental treats instead. The way dental treats work is that they have certain ridges and grooves in them. This helps clean your dog’s teeth and mouth of plaque and tartar.
The most common dental disorders of dogs: Infections
Let’s now take a look at enemy number one when it comes to our dog’s dental health. Bacterial infections and inflammation of the gums are the most common dental disease in all dog breeds. Early detection is important because in severe cases, simple teeth infections could lead to serious side effects such as heart disease. This is because bacteria from the mouth get into the bloodstream, seriously damage the heart, and cause problems with other organs.
A dog tooth infection doesn’t always show any signs. They can sometimes drink, eat, and act like everything is normal. That’s why you should be on the lookout for subtle signs of dental problems.
If a dog has a tooth infection, they might not want to eat hard treats or food in general, or they might drop pieces of food while they are eating. They may also stop chewing on their favorite toy, have bad breath, and pull away if you try to touch their face or mouth.
If the tooth infection has gotten worse, you might see signs like excessive drooling, swelling around the eyes, or a wound that is draining near the eyes. Most of the time, these signs and symptoms only show up when your dog’s tooth infection is already pretty bad.
I think my dog has a tooth infection. What should I do?
Never try to treat a dog’s tooth infection at home. You could hurt more than help. Even if you brush your dog’s teeth every day for a week, it won’t help. But setting up an appointment with your vet and getting him the help he needs from a professional will.
Once your vet tells you that your dog does have a tooth infection, there are two possible ways to treat it. The first and least expensive option is to just pull the affected teeth out of your dog. This is called an extraction. Most of the time, it is done while under general anesthesia. When the bad tooth is finally out, your dog will feel better right away.
If, on the other hand, you don’t want him to have his tooth pulled, there is still another option: a root canal. Root canals in dogs need to be done by a professional who has the right skills and tools. Root canals can be pretty expensive, but they will save your dog’s tooth and get rid of the infection.
Fractured teeth in dogs
Another very common dental problem in dogs is fractured teeth. Teeth break when both the enamel and the dentin are chipped. In worse cases, the tooth can be broken so badly that the nerves are visible from the outside.
When the enamel gets chipped, the dentin can be exposed. This can make the tooth sensitive to heat, cold, or pressure. This won’t be enjoyable for your dog, and he will often feel pain when eating his kibble or even drinking water.
But if the pulp of the tooth is exposed, it hurts even more. When this happens, the inside of the tooth can fill up with infected material, which can spread to the jaw and cause a much worse infection.
A root canal is a great place for the infection to hide. Your dog’s immune system will have a hard time responding to the infection because of this. Sometimes, not even antibiotics can help. At the same time, bacteria that leave the tooth’s tip can spread, causing your dog’s teeth to hurt every time he or she chews on something.
If the nerve of your dog’s tooth is showing, you have two choices: root canal therapy or taking the tooth out. But if the nerve is not showing, the tooth may be able to be fixed without root canal therapy.
If the tooth just broke, your vet might recommend vital pulp therapy. This treatment keeps the tooth alive and puts a barrier on top of the teeth to protect them from other dog dental problems.
If nothing else can be done, a broken tooth will have to be taken out. But most of the time, vets won’t pull out a tooth that is broken but otherwise healthy.
FAQ: Dog dental problems
How can I fix my dog’s bad breath?
While puppy breath can be charming, our dogs can sometimes have an unbearably bad breath. This can be especially annoying if your dog loves to wake you up in the morning with lots of kisses. We already explained how important brushing is, but even if that didn’t help your dog, we have some additional tips on how to fix your dog’s bad breath.
Before we get to the tips, there is one more thing I want to stress. Many things can cause a dog to have bad breath. Bad breath can sometimes be a sign of more serious dog dental problems or even health problems, like kidney disease or liver disease. Because of this, it’s very important to always talk to your vet if you notice something strange about your dog.
The best way to keep your dog from having bad breath is to:
- Get them lots of chew toys and treats. Both will help keep plaque and tartar from building up on their teeth.
- Pick good food for your dog – Give your dog a well-balanced diet and good food.
- Dental chews are the best choice because they help clean your dog’s breath and cut down on bad breath.
- Apple Cider Vinegar works wonders – Putting a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in your dog’s water bowl will make his breath smell better.
Can dogs wear braces to fix dog dental problems?
You might be surprised to learn that dogs can wear braces. However, this is very rare, so you probably haven’t seen a dog with braces running around the dog park. Dog braces have been in use since the 80s, but unlike human braces, these aren’t used for aesthetic purposes at all.
Instead, braces are used to treat other painful or even dangerous dental issues in canines. Dogs need a healthy and strong bite, and some of them will need a little help with braces to achieve that.
The most common problem that requires braces is linguoversion, in which the teeth are pushed back toward the tongue. This can lead to the teeth rubbing against the roof of the mouth. In mild cases, this would be uncomfortable, but in more serious cases, the teeth could poke holes in the roof of the mouth. In time, this could lead to serious gum infections.
Other problems include an overbite, which happens when the bottom jaw is shorter than the top, and lance teeth, which happen when the upper canines point out instead of down.
The vet’s job is to figure out if the teeth are just crooked or if they are crooked and causing problems as well. No responsible vet will put braces on just for looks.
Your dog will be looked at by your vet to see if he or she needs braces. Before applying, your vet needs to make sure your dog is healthy enough to go under anesthesia. Other tests include x-rays and possibly cleanings.
Does my dog have an underbite?
Have you ever seen a dog with an underbite? It’s not too hard to tell if a dog has this condition or not. When teeth aren’t aligned right, the lower teeth stick out in front of the upper row, this is called an underbite. The Bulldog is a good example of this because its bottom teeth often stick out of its lip. Underbites in dogs can range from mild cases that don’t need any treatment to severe dog dental problems cases that might need surgery.
An underbite could happen to any kind of dog. But it happens much more often in some breeds. Smaller dog breeds like the Boston terrier, Pekingese, French bulldog, English bulldog, King Charles Spaniel, Pug, Lhasa Apso, and Shih Tzu are most likely to have it. Mixed-breed dogs whose parents are from this list are also in danger.
Underbites can be caused by the bones or the teeth. Dental underbites happen when a dog’s facial bones are normal, but his teeth aren’t in the right place. Skeletal underbites happen when there is something wrong with the way the dog’s face is built. This makes the top and bottom rows of teeth not line up with each other.
Underbites raise the risk of many health problems. Even more so if your dog has a more serious case of a skeletal underbite. When a dog has a serious underbite, it can be hard for them to chew and swallow their food. These problems shouldn’t be hard to notice, and you will have to contact your vet and schedule a visit as soon as possible.
Conclusion: Dog dental problems
We can’t deny it: Teeth are important. And not just for looks, but for our overall health as well. As it turns out, the same rule also applies to our canine companions. While we can brush our own teeth every night and every morning, our pets don’t have the much-needed thumbs to do that. Instead, they rely on our help to care for their pearly whites.
Dental hygiene is often overlooked by dog owners, and as we already explained, our dogs depend on us to brush their teeth at least a couple of times a week. No, you don’t have to do it twice a day like for yourself, but do it at least three times a week. Once-daily would be ideal, but if you throw in some dental chews in-between the brushing days, your pup will be more than fine.
Don’t underestimate the danger of gingivitis or a tooth infection. While it may not seem too dramatic on the outside, these conditions could still seriously damage your dog’s health. They could even spread to other organs such as the heart! So you better take that toothbrush and toothpaste and start brushing.