Dogs + Dental & Oral Health

  • Plaque forms on teeth shortly after eating and within 24 hours begins to harden, eventually turning into tartar. Tartar serves as a place for bacteria to grow, leading to gingivitis. As gingivitis worsens, periodontal disease develops, which includes inflammation, pain, and tooth loss. Prevention of plaque and tartar build-up is key. Use VOHC-accepted food and/or water additives, wipe or brush your dog's teeth daily, and have your veterinarian perform regular dental cleanings.

  • The American Animal Hospital Association and American Veterinary Medical Association have established guidelines to standardize preventive health care for dogs, helping them to live longer, healthier lives. This handout provides an overview of the recommendations within these guidelines and why they are so important.

  • Anesthesia-free dentistry is a service that is commonly offered at pet stores and grooming facilities. Veterinarians use general anesthesia during dental procedures to permit a thorough oral examination and treatment of any diagnosed dental disease. Unfortunately, anesthesia-free dentistry is often a higher-stress option than the alternative. Scaling the teeth involves placing sharp instruments inside the mouth and with a wiggly pet, injury can occur. Anesthesia-free dentistry is far more limited than veterinary dentistry. Dental cleanings should only be performed while your pet is under anesthesia. Your veterinarian will customize your pet’s anesthetic plan for your pet’s overall health condition.

  • Many pets are sensitive to being restrained for grooming. With slow progress and positive rewards, your pet can learn to accept or even enjoy having their teeth cleaned.

  • Dental X-rays in dogs are similar to those taken in humans. In many cases, intraoral (within the mouth) dental X-rays are necessary to identify and treat dental problems in your dog. Nearly two-thirds of each tooth is located under the gum line. Your dog will need to be anesthetized to accurately place the X-ray sensor and perform a thorough oral assessment, treatment, and prevention procedures.

  • Tooth resorption in dogs is a painful condition with no known cause. It is categorized into two types with subcategories of each: internal or external. Tooth resorption is usually only visible on intraoral radiographs. Although the premolars of the lower jaw are most commonly affected, lesions can be found affecting any tooth. Dogs with tooth resorption may show increased salivation, oral bleeding, or difficulty eating, as well as muscular spasms or trembling of the jaw whenever the lesion is touched. Treatment will be determined based on how far the resorption has extended and may include watchful waiting or extraction.

  • A tooth root abscess develops when bacteria enter the exposed root canal of the tooth. If the protective tooth enamel is chipped exposing the underlying dentin or the pulp, bacteria can gain access to the center of the tooth causing an infection. A persistent infection can result in an abscess that may leak directly into the oral cavity or may leak out onto the skin. Any tooth can fracture; however, the most common are the canine teeth. If your dog has an abscess, he may be reluctant to chew on her toys or may pull away when his head is touched. A tooth root abscess is a very painful condition and needs to be treated as soon as possible. Antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and/or pain relief medication will be prescribed. Treatment options include root canal therapy or extraction.

  • Dogs can have misalignment of the teeth much like people. In people, orthodontic care can be used to perfect a pleasing smile or create a functional bite. In dogs, the goal is to make the mouth functional and pain free. Often this involves moving teeth, reducing the height of teeth, or extracting teeth.

  • Regular preventive health care for your dog can increase the length and quality of her life. Health care guidelines are established and kept up to date using the most recent evidence-based recommendations including the recommendation that all dogs receive a complete veterinary examination at least once a year or more frequently, depending on their individual needs and health concerns.