Dog Teeth Problems

Vet examining a dog's teeth in office.
Vet examining a dog's teeth in office. (Image: pyotr021/iStock/Getty Images)

Canine tooth issues are similar to many human dental problems. All dogs have 42 adult teeth, but toy breeds have that number crammed into tiny mouths. They're particularly at risk for teeth problems, as are brachycephalic, or short-nosed, breeds. These include the bulldog, pug, Pekingese and other dogs with pushed-in faces, with subsequent dental problems ensuing from lack of sufficient space in the mouth. Your vet can show you how to brush your dog's teeth to improve oral health and reduce the odds of dental disease.

Signs of Dental Problems

If your dog suffers from halitosis, or bad breath, that's an indication that all is not well with his teeth and gums. You might notice brown tartar buildup on the teeth. Your vet checks your dog's teeth at his annual wellness visit, and she'll recommend cleaning -- done under anesthesia -- if there's excessive plaque buildup. If you notice changes in your dog's chewing habits, such as only using one side of his mouth, or difficulty eating kibble or hard treats, take him to the vet for an oral examination. Dogs suffering from dental pain might drool excessively or rub the mouth with their front paws to ease discomfort.

Canine Endodontic Disease

Endodontic means that disease occurs within the teeth. This includes tooth decay and any injuries to the teeth. Decayed teeth might turn gray or reddish, with pits on the sides or surface, or even have pus draining from them. Affected dogs experience difficulty chewing and resist having their mouths examined. Treatment might consist of pulling the tooth or performing a root canal. A veterinary dentist can fill a cavity, similar to the way people are treated.

Periodontal Disease

Most dogs exhibit signs of periodontal disease by the age of 3, according to the American Veterinary Dental College. It starts when bacteria forms plaque, which adheres to the teeth. Plaque eventually solidifies into tartar, which, if not removed, heads below the gum line. Gingivitis, or gum inflammation, is an early sign of periodontal disease. Your dog's gums appear red and painful. It leads to actual periodontitis, or tooth and bone loss. Periodontitis can lead to bone infection and jaw fracture. Bacteria in the teeth and gums can affect the health of your dog's internal organs. Treatment includes extensive cleaning, tooth extraction and ongoing daily oral hygiene conducted at home.

Fractured Teeth

Your dog can break a tooth by biting down on a hard object, or experiencing trauma to his mouth. If his tooth is broken, he requires some kind of treatment, even if it's simply having your vet pull the tooth. Untreated, bacteria and subsequent infection has a direct route into your pet's body. If your vet thinks the tooth can be saved, she might perform a root canal. If you're willing to pay the bill, your vet can restore his tooth with a crown.

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