Oral care and dental disease is the number one diagnosed problem in dogs. It is essential for your dog’s health that they get good oral care both professionally and at home. From the time you bring your new puppy home and on through its senior years, it is our responsibility to provide the best oral care for our pets.
Good oral care includes regular veterinarian visits. A thorough dental exam can identify any potential oral problems such as plaque buildup, tartar, gingivitis, periodontal disease, and fractured or abscessed teeth.
Plaque is the buildup that forms along the gum line of the dog from food particles and bacteria. A routine at home oral care plan can remove plaque.
Tartar is a result of the plaque, along with minerals in the dog’s saliva which strongly adheres to the teeth.
As tartar builds up under the gums, it separates the gums from the teeth which form little pockets that collect more bacteria. This condition is the onset of periodontal disease. It can be very painful, cause loose teeth, abscesses and eventually enter the bloodstream, affecting your dog’s heart, liver and kidneys.
Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums, causing redness and swelling. Gingivitis is most commonly caused from plaque which can lead to tartar which can lead to periodontal disease. Accelerated gingivitis can also lead to tooth loss and abscesses.
During the oral exam, your vet will examine the dog’s face and head for asymmetry, swelling, or discharges. The teeth and gums as well as the dog’s bite will be checked. The inner mouth is then explored to check the teeth, gums, tongue, palates, oral mucosa, tonsils, and ventral tongue area. Your vet will also evaluate the salivary glands and lymph nodes as part of a thorough oral care yearly examination.
Aside from your weekly at home oral care of your dog, it is also important to have your dog’s teeth and gums treated professionally at least once a year. Brushing your dog’s teeth at home will remove plaque but not tartar. A professional cleaning and polishing will remove all plaque and tartar while warding off gingivitis and periodontal disease. A professional cleaning, called prophylaxis includes –
• X-rays to assess the teeth and bones of the mouth.
• A flushing of the mouth to kill bacteria.
• A cleansing of the teeth with an ultrasonic scaler. This tool removes all calculus above and below the gum line, which could not be done without anesthesia.
• A flushing of a disclosing solution to note if any calculus has been missed so that it can then be removed.
• Teeth are then polished.
• Inspections of each tooth and gums for any signs of disease.
• A repeat flushing with an anti-bacterial wash.
• An optional dental agent is applied to repel plaque.
• All findings are recorded.
• The best at-home program is determined for your dog.
Once your dog’s pearly whites have been treated and in optimum condition, you as the pet parent will want to carry on a good at home oral care program of your dog. Examine your dog’s mouth every week and look for signs of gum disease such as bad breath (usually the first sign), red and swollen gums, a yellow-brown crust of tartar around the gum line and any pain and/or bleeding of the gums or mouth when touched. Also take note of any fractured, discolored or missing teeth and any notable bumps or masses in the mouth. Any of these signs should be brought to the attention of your veterinarian.
Feeding your dog hard kibbles and dental bones can help to keep plaque from building up on your dog’s teeth. Get your dog in the routine of a daily brushing of the teeth as well for optimum oral care for your dog.