A Guide to Keeping Your Dog's Teeth Clean and Healthy

Dogs need healthy teeth to eat, play, groom and protect themselves. When you consider the many roles they play in your dog's life, it's vital to care for them properly.

Bad teeth can make it difficult to eat and that alone can set off a variety of health concerns. Beyond that, a tooth infection may spread to other parts of the body, like the kidneys or even the valves of the heart. 

Before you start worrying, focus on prevention. To make sure your dog's teeth stay healthy, regular dental examinations are recommended for dogs of all ages. These can be done during your dog's regular veterinary check-up. But don't rely on your veterinarian to keep your dog's teeth clean - success lies in your day-to-day routine. 

What to Watch For

The most common dental problems are the result of plaque and calculus buildup. These can lead to red, swollen or bleeding gums, excessive drooling, bad breath, loss of appetite, dark spots on molars and raised sores on the mouth.

So what causes that buildup? Food residue, bacteria and saliva may accumulate and adhere to the tooth surface, forming a soft plaque. If plaque buildup continues, solutions of minerals form a hardened dental calculus on the tooth surface.

Calculus is seen more frequently in older dogs who are fed larger quantities of soft foods. If left unchecked, this calculus may eventually cause inflammation of both gums (gingivitis) and the deep tissue surrounding the tooth socket (periodontitis).

Creating a Brushing Routine

Some experts suggest brushing a puppy's teeth at least every other day. For the first few sessions, try gently massaging your puppy's teeth and gums with a fingertip until he is used to having you handle his mouth. Then begin swabbing the outer surface of the teeth with a square of gauze. Be aware that your puppy will begin to lose baby teeth from time to time.

After your puppy becomes accustomed to this routine, you may want to switch to a pet dental brush or a soft child-size toothbrush. There are pet-specific toothpastes and dental cleaning products on the market - ask your veterinarian or check at your local pet store to find the ones right for your dog.

Simple Maintenance

Between visits, provide your puppy with a recommended dental toy that will act as a scraper and help prevent tartar buildup. Dry dog food and treats that exercise the teeth and gums can also help. Your veterinarian may also recommend a specially formulated dental food to help promote healthier teeth.

As we know, toothaches and dental problems can be extremely painful - so make sure they don't happen to your dog. With the right amount of attention, you can help make sure your dog's teeth are always healthy.