As our dogs get older taking care of their teeth and gums remains important. If you adopt an adult dog like we did, you don't have the opportunity to introduce teeth brushing as a puppy. Your dog may also have had poor nutrition as a puppy and come to you with compromised teeth and gums. After we took Cleo for her first teeth cleaning we quickly discovered this was the case, and shortly afterward had paid for two root canals.
How do you tell if your dog has dental disease?
The most obvious visual clue to dental disease is the build up of the tartar on the tooth surface. A much more subtle clue to dental disease is the change in the normal gum lines. Every tooth has a bulge just where the normal, healthy gum meets the tooth. This bulge is normally not a straight line for most teeth. This means that we should see a slight wave of gums along the outside of normal, healthy teeth. If the gums are straight along the tooth, either gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums, or gingival recession, or loss of the normal gum height, is present.
Gingivitis is reversible, as the inflammation will go away once the cause of the inflammation is addressed.
Does your dog have bad breath? Do you brush their teeth or use one of the many products out there, like chewables or spray gels? We have had some success with PlaqueOff, ground seaweed that goes into her food. She's about 13 years old now and given her dental experiences with us, this is a viable option compared to getting her to chew on a nylabone or sedating her for cleanings.
I will never forget the first time Cleo picked up her plush squeaky toy to show us how happy she was we'd come home -- only to drop it like a hot potato. The confused pained look on her face said it all.
Oral pain can be difficult to pinpoint in pets, particularly if the pain is a gradual change. Just because your dog appears pain free, it doesn't mean she is. In fact, the majority of dogs with fractured teeth don't show signs of discomfort even though they may be in serious pain.
When Cleo got her canine tooth caught on a log, suddenly the entire tooth became horizontal to the rest of her jaw -- but she didn't let out a peep! It was only after she turned her head towards us, and we saw blood pouring out of her mouth did we know what had happened.
If your pet exhibits any of the following behaviors, she could have a tooth fracture:
- Chewing on one side
- Dropping food from the mouth when eating
- Excessive drooling
- Teeth grinding
- Pawing at the mouth
- Facial swelling
- Shying away when the face is petted
- Refusing to eat hard food
- Refusing to chew on hard treats or toys
- Tooth discoloration could be the result of pulpitis, which is the inflammation of the tooth pulp