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Dog Teeth Problems

dog teeth problems

Much like humans, dogs can also develop oral diseases, including broken teeth and periodontal diseases. Dogs are five times more susceptible to dental problems than humans. In addition, the prevalence of periodontal diseases is at 80% among dogs over the age of 3.

The most common dental problem among dogs is bad breath. However, this is quite harmless when not accompanied by other serious dental diseases like periodontal disease. In the same line, cavities are also common among dogs and harmless when they are not a symptom of something serious.

This is because canines have an alkalizing mouth which promotes the buildup of plaques in their mouth. As bacteria multiply, their symptoms also do. As a result, it can lead to inflammation and tissue damage. This causes tooth loss and pain for your pup.

This article takes you through the various dog teeth problems often seen in your pet. Keep reading for signs, treatment, and prevention.

What is Dental Disease in Dogs?

Unlike humans, canines have little to no problems with tooth decay. But most dogs over three years old have dental disease. It comes in four stages, generally beginning with plaque and tartar in the mouth. This then leads to lightly inflamed gums, often called gingivitis.

If left untreated, they can progress into severe gum disease (periodontitis). And in due course, it may involve loss of bone and soft tissue around the affected teeth. In severe cases, it can affect other organs in your pet’s body and even organ failure.

Periodontal disease is one of the most common dental diseases seen in dogs. More than two-thirds of dogs aged three and older have the disease. Another common condition seen is fractured teeth. However, cavities are pretty rare and are present in only 10% of oral conditions.

When do Dogs Get Teeth Problems?

Dogs generally develop gingivitis at two years of age. However, it can get better with regular treatment. By the time they are three years of age, most dogs would have developed a dental disease. Gingivitis progresses to periodontal disease at about 4-6 years of age. When left untreated, it leads to bone loss.

Are Dental Problems Common in Dogs?

Dental disease is quite prevalent in canines. It is one of the most common ailments seen by vets. Unfortunately, only a few pets show outward signs of the disease. Therefore, it is up to the vet and the owner to spot this painful condition.

Of all dental diseases, periodontal disease is the most common infectious disease. It is a progressive, inflammatory disease that affects the supporting structures of the teeth. It is also the leading cause of early tooth loss in dogs.

Is the Dental Disease in Dogs Fatal?

Periodontal disease can cause more complications than just pain and loss of teeth. Untreated inflammation in pets can be a leading cause of liver, heart, and kidney diseases. In the end, they can untreated gum disease can destroy the bone so much so that even the slightest pressure can fracture your dog’s jaw.

Common Dog Teeth Problems

Dental complaints are the most common health problem for dogs. One of the most common issues is bad breath. Bad breath though harmless, does show signs of bad dental health. On the other hand, Cavities are uncommon and periodontal, or gum disease in canines is not.

Periodontal disease is one of the most commonly encountered health problems in dogs. The condition affects about 80% of pets by the age of three.

Teeth issues can harm the overall health and dog’s quality of life of your dog.

Plaque and Tartar Buildup

Plaque is an adhesive film on the inside of the tooth. It is a whitish substance consisting mainly of bacteria. The plaque creates a foul smell that increases with time unless you brush. When left unattended, they cause tooth decay and gum disease.

If not brushed within 24 – 48 hours, the plaque thickens into a hard substance called tartar. Also called calculus, tartar is a yellow or brown-colored substance that stays affixed to the teeth. At this point, they are not removed by brushing and will need to be scraped with a hard object. Once it reaches the gum line, it can irritate, leading to gum disease.

The primary signs dog owners will notice are poor quality breath, stained teeth, and red gum line. As it progresses, you may also find worsening breath and bleeding gums. Other contributing factors for gum disease are age, diet, breed, and genetics.

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is a painful bacterial infection that affects the liver, heart, and kidneys when left untreated. As the name indicates, it affects the gums and the bones that surround the teeth. The dental disease is generally silent—there aren’t many apparent early signs and symptoms. However, once it advances, it causes untold pain for your dog, missing teeth, bone loss, swollen gums, and more.

Gingivitis/Gum Disease

vet brushing dog teeth

Gingivitis is the first stage of periodontal disease. The gums are inflamed due to the bacterial plaque, but the infection hasn’t reached the bones and ligaments. So in truth, the tartar that you see isn’t the reason for the infection.

When the hard tartar digs into the gums and gets under the gum line, it starts a vicious cycle of infection. The bacteria get trapped, which causes damage to the supporting tissues and the surrounding bone structure.

The inflamed gums become red or purple and swollen, bleeding on contact. Gingivitis at this stage is reversible. It is treated via a professional dental cleaning (under anesthesia). Following that, pet owners should follow proper oral hygiene, such as daily tooth brushing and dental cleaning.


In the case of periodontitis, the infection is much more severe and affects the gum tissue, bones, and ligaments. As the vital supports of the teeth diminish, pockets develop around the roots of the teeth. This allows food, bacteria, and other debris to collect, causing infections.

The bacterial buildup in these pockets secretes a toxic substance causing further damage to the tissue. The resulting inflammation triggers the dog’s immune system, bringing in the white blood cells to fight the bacteria. However, in the process, the surrounding tissues and bones are also damaged. Over time teeth loosen and begin falling from the mouth.

Dentists treat periodontitis with a professional cleaning and regular treatment. In severe cases, your pet may require oral surgery to reach the root surface.

Tooth Root Abscess

In severe cases of periodontal disease, the bacteria reaches deep into the roots of the teeth. And then, it starts destroying the root depriving the tooth of its blood supply resulting in tissue destruction. This stimulates a response from the immune system, which floods the area with white blood cells (pus or abscess). At this stage, your pet would require a surgical intervention. The abscess affects the molars and presents itself as a swelling under the eye.

However, the tooth root abscess may also be linked to mouth trauma when dogs chew hard objects and injure their mouths. In addition, the infection causes the swelling and facial deformity, which can be pretty painful.

Tooth Fractures

Tooth fractures are common among dogs that are constant chewers. They happen when the dog chews on hard objects such as hard nylon chews, bones, antlers, and pig hooves. Your pet pooch should not chew on anything that doesn’t have a bit of a give.

The size of the chew also contributes to fractured teeth. A large chew toy will make the gum and tooth flex to an angle so that one side of the tooth is split. It is called slab fracture. Tooth fractures should be treated to save the tooth. If the pulp is exposed, root canal treatments and tooth extractions are the only options.

Retained Baby Teeth

All puppies have baby teeth which then fall out, making space for adult teeth. The adult teeth come in by the age of 6 months. In some cases, the puppies retain the baby teeth leading to overcrowding. Unfortunately, there is no way to treat retained baby teeth. However, dentists can remove them under anesthesia.

What are the Signs of Dental Problems in Dogs?

The signs of dental diseases in dogs are quite underrated. These cause your pooch untold pain and discomfort. Though these symptoms can sometimes be mistaken for older dogs, pet owners can see marked changes like:

  • Bad breath
  • Discolored teeth
  • Plaque and tartar buildup
  • Bleeding gums
  • Swollen gums
  • Loss of interest in chew toys
  • Loss of appetite or difficulty eating
  • Increased drooling
  • Missing teeth
  • Fatigue
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Sneezing and nasal discharge (due to periodontitis in upper canine teeth)

Dog Breeds with Bad Teeth

Few dogs, especially the smaller ones, present a greater risk of developing periodontal diseases. However, as a pet parent, you need to be diligent with these breeds.

  • Pug face dental problems like plaque and periodontal disease as a result of the short-muzzled bone structure. They also suffer from overcrowding of teeth.
  • Chihuahua has a small mouth to host all 42 teeth. This makes them susceptible to periodontal disease.
  • Yorkies often have retained baby teeth.
  • Boxers and large breeds such as Great Danes and bulldogs suffer from gingival hyperplasia 0r thickening of gums.
  • Collie suffers from an overbite, soft tissue trauma, and tooth-on-tooth wear.
  • Dachshunds have a narrow muzzle hence making them susceptible to periodontal disease.

Why do Small Dogs have Teeth Problems?

Small breed dogs such as Chihuahuas, Pugs, and Yorkies are susceptible to dental disease. The consensus is the small heads which lead to overcrowding. There is not much space between the teeth, presenting more space for food particles to collect bacteria.

They also retain their baby teeth which again is a reason for overcrowding. In addition, other breeds such as pugs and Boston terriers have bite problems.

How do I Prevent Dental Disease in Dogs?

The most common risk factor for periodontal diseases in dogs is inadequate oral hygiene. The key to managing periodontal diseases is prevention. As long as their teeth remain clean, they will not harbor bacteria, and the gums will also stay healthy.

Dogs Do Not Show Signs of Teeth Pain

veterinarian examining dog teeth problem

Less than 5% of dogs show outward pain in their teeth as a result of periodontal disease. This is because their animal instinct doesn’t allow them to show any pain. As a result, they have evolved to hide even the chronic pain.

Even with bleeding gum and cracked teeth, your pet would prefer to wag his tail rather than show you that he is sick. He will be the happy dog you know.

Examine Your Dog’s teeth daily

You’re unlikely to diagnose serious oral problems in a dog’s mouth. However, there are things worth looking for between all these vet cleanings. Look out for broken teeth, discolored teeth, and loose teeth. Other signs to look out for include:

  • Blood on chew toys or water bowl
  • Bad breath(within 1-2 months of cleaning)
  • Swelling in or around the dog’s mouth
  • Increased resistance to brushing

Know the Signs of Dental Diseases in Dogs

Stay vigilant for broken or discolorated teeth as well as if the teeth are turned. Too often, breeders, even vets, are looking at the signs that the pet is old. Unfortunately, all these signs of mouth cavities go wrong all too often. There are plenty of things that can happen in your dog’s mouth — but most of it can go unnoticed.

Keep an Eye on Their Oral Health

Taking care of your pet’s oral health is akin to taking care of your own. Here are some simple steps you can follow to ensure optimum health,

  • Pet owners should do annual oral examinations, dental x-rays and dental cleaning every year under general anesthesia.
  • Daily tooth brushing is the key to a healthy mouth. A pet toothpaste and pet toothbrush with a little bit of patience can help keep your pet healthy and happy.
  • Give your pet safe chew toys to keep its mouth in top form. It helps slow down the progression of periodontal disease. For example, give them hard and rubber toys or thin rawhide bones.
  • Feed your pet healthy foods suitable for his dietary needs. This includes food with additives to prevent plaque and dried food to scrub their teeth.


Veterinary dentistry is always available to help your dog with his periodontal disease. However, keep in mind that it is already advanced by the time you notice any signs of periodontal disease. So, the best treatment option is prevention.

vet examines dog teeth

Daily tooth brushing is much more than clean teeth. It is the difference between a bundle of joy and a sick dog. It is also worth providing them with lots of opportunities to chew. And always feed your dog a proper diet. Finally, be sure you see your doctor during the day for regular checks. If you suspect gum damage talk to a vet first – brushing is sometimes ineffective.

If your dog is showing signs of periodontal disease, contact a vet. They will examine the nature of the disease and suggest a treatment plan.

In Tucson, Santa Cruz Pet Clinic is a world-renowned and trusted veterinarian that you desire for keeping up with your pet’s vaccinations at the proper time to ensure its health. Contact us today to schedule your pet’s vaccinations and check-ups.

Teeth Cleaning for Dogs

Teeth Cleaning for DogsMost people do not realize how essential teeth cleaning is for dogs. There are many common dental problems, some of which are very serious, that dogs can experience if their teeth are not kept clean on a regular basis. Not only that, it is quite costly to fix neglected teeth.

One of the most common disorders for dogs is periodontitis. So when people ask if teeth cleaning for dogs is necessary, the answer is a resounding “YES”.

It is estimated that by the age of three, most dogs have developed or are developing periodontal (gum) disease. Periodontal disease allows plaque — a sticky film of bacteria — to build up on the teeth and harden, resulting in infection, inflammation, and the breakdown of the tissues that structurally support the teeth. If this continues for too long a time, tooth loss may occur. 

What to Look for to Know You Need Teeth Cleaning for Dogs

There are many signs that your dog needs to get its teeth cleaned. Here is a short list of things that you can look for. Most people do not know to watch for excessive nasal draining and sneezing that can occur when an abscess breaks within the nasal passages. Drooling, poor appetite, discolored teeth, bad breath, receding gums, bleeding gums, missing teeth, and loose teeth are other signals to look for. 

Tips for Preparing Your Dog for Teeth Cleaning

Before you take your dog to have their teeth cleaned, there are a few things that you can do to help prepare them for the appointment. 

  • Have a Physical Check-Up First – Many people ask how safe is teeth cleaning for dogs? Teeth cleaning is generally safe, but if your dog has an underlying health issue, the anesthetic could cause problems. Make sure that your dog has been checked for underlying health conditions before a teeth cleaning is performed. 
  • Get Bloodwork Done – Recent lab tests will be needed for your dog before teeth cleaning. The labs will check for conditions that could cause complications during teeth cleaning. Labs can also look for infections that could be present from poor dental health. 
  • Use Antibiotics – Some veterinarians will prescribe antibiotics before or after teeth cleaning. If your vet prescribes antibiotics, make sure that you are giving them to your dog.
  • Don’t Feed Your Dog – Most pet owners remain concerned asking if teeth cleaning is even safe for dogs. One thing that can cause teeth cleaning to be dangerous is feeding your pet after the recommended time. This can cause complications with the anesthetic. 

Frequently Asked QuestionsPeople Also Ask

Do Dogs Really Need Teeth Cleaning? 

Yes, your dog needs to have his/her teeth cleaned. Some breeds are more likely to have periodontal disease issues, particularly smaller breeds or those who eat wet dog food. Regular cleanings will not substitute good dental hygiene, so make sure that you are also brushing your dog’s teeth. There are special chew toys and teeth cleaning treats that can help as well.

What Happens After a Dog’s Teeth Cleaning? 

You will take your dog to the veterinarian’s office or clinic for teeth cleanings. These cleanings are generally painless, and typically, your dog goes home immediately afterward. Most dogs do receive a mild anesthetic to keep them from injuring the person who is cleaning their teeth. They might seem tired when you take them home, and they might experience mild pain if they had tartar and plaque removed, but within a day, they should be back to normal.

How Often Should Dogs Have Their Teeth Cleaned? 

X-rays, teeth cleaning, and examinations should begin when your dog is six months old and should occur annually; why we are saying this, check this article out.

Why Is Dog Teeth Cleaning So Expensive?

Many people seem shocked when they hear the cost of teeth cleaning for dogs. Teeth cleaning is not the expensive part of dental work for your dog. The expenses come from the anesthesia and the x-rays. 


Poor dental hygiene can cause more problems than just bad breath. Teeth can have plaque, which will become tartar if left untreated. Tartar, along with a plaque, can cause several problems with the gums and infections. You can brush the plaque from your dog’s teeth at home, but you cannot remove the built-up tartar. This is something that will require the attention of a veterinarian. 

Untreated dental problems can lead to an infection in the bloodstream that could damage the heart, kidneys, lungs, or other organs. While not as extreme, it can also cause your dog’s teeth to become loose and/or fall out, abscesses, gum loss where the gums support the teeth, gum separation, and oral pain.

Your dog’s dental health is important. Teeth cleaning for dogs is a necessity if you want your dog to live a long and healthy life. In Tucson, Santa Cruz Pet Clinic is the trusted veterinarian that you desire for your dog’s teeth cleaning. Contact us today to schedule the teeth cleaning and all necessary appointments to ensure that your dog is in optimal health when going into the cleaning.

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