Canine dentition - How to care for your dog's teeth
Dental problems can develop from puppy-hood and it is your responsibility to help him maintain a proper dental regime. This will help your dog retain his teeth as he advances into old age. Regular dental check-ups are crucial for your dog’s health.
As your puppy matures, the 28 deciduous teeth which erupt at around three to four weeks might not make way for the usual 42 permanent teeth which come through when your dog is about six to eight months old. Impacted teeth can cause pain to your dog. Overcrowding of the dog’s gums make eating very difficult and your vet may need to extract the retained deciduous teeth under anaesthetic.
Tartar is another common problem to be on the look out for. Your dog is likely to start developing tartar on his teeth from the age of two or earlier. Tartar reacts with the saliva and forms plaque which adheres to the teeth and slowly pushes the gums back to expose more of the teeth. Unless this is dealt with, he is likely to develop gingivitis, which is the first stage of gum disease and symptoms include redness along the gum line.
Gingivitis causes gums to bleed when your dog is eating as pressure is applied to the gums. Your vet will remove the plaque, otherwise the condition will worsen. With plaque left untreated, erosion of the jawbone could occur, resulting in loss of teeth over time. Your dog will also have halitosis, or bad breath, a sure sign that he needs mouth and dental care.
There are two ways of dealing with the plaque on his teeth: treatment and prevention. Your vet can give him a tooth cleaning procedure while your dog is under an anaesthetic, or you can help prevent the build up of plaque by getting your dog accustomed to having his teeth brushed regularly at home. Your vet will advise you on the most suitable brush and paste.
You can opt to use a finger brush which gives more control when cleaning your dog’s teeth. If you can get your dog used to you exploring his mouth from a very early age, you will have a much better chance of keeping his teeth clean and healthy for as long as possible. Your vet may also suggest dental biscuits as occasional treats which will have a slight abrasive action and help to keep the teeth clean.
One common problem is developing cracks or fractures in the teeth, a result of biting on very hard objects. This causes your dog a great deal of pain as the nerves are exposed. In addition, cracks will provide a direct route for infection which can lead to an abscess. Serious infections can contaminate the bloodstream and this can result in conditions such as heart or kidney disease in your dog.
Abscesses and ulcers can also be caused by misaligned dentition or a chipped or worn tooth rubbing against the soft flesh inside the mouth. Jaw and tooth misalignments are most commonly seen in overbred dogs, but occasionally appear in young dogs which have been pulling hard on sticks or other toys in play. Regular visits to your vet will ensure that such problems are checked and cause your dog as little discomfort as possible.