Dog teeth cleaning & preventing gum disease in dogs
Last Updated: 02/02/2023
Did you know that in the UK, more than 80% of dogs aged 3 and over will develop dental problems at some stage of their life? Crazy, right? This is occurs as a result of dental decay, which itself occurs because caring for dogs’ teeth can sometimes be difficult.
Let’s take a look at why dog teeth cleaning is so important, how to spot the signs of gum disease in dogs and the best methods of dog dental care.
Why is dog teeth cleaning so important?
Dental care for your dog is very important. You might question this and use the classic argument – ‘wild dogs don’t have their teeth cleaned and they’re just fine, so why does my dog need it?’ – and while this is a fair argument, you must remember that:
- Wild animals and dogs of past generations tended not to live as long as we expect our dogs to now. In fact, a wild dog would only live to about 3-4 years of age
- Wild animals eat a totally different diet to our domesticated friends
- Selective breeding has altered the teeth of domestic dogs over time, and their dental needs with it
Cleaning your dog’s teeth is a staple of preventative healthcare. Much like vaccinating them against diseases, dental cleaning lowers your dog’s risk of gum disease, dental disease and many more dental-related illnesses.
The cost of advanced dental procedures can mount up, so regular cleaning of your dog’s teeth might feel like an effort but it’s bound to save you money!
Gum disease in dogs occurs when there is a build-up of plaque at the base of their teeth. As this worsens, the area surrounding the base of the tooth becomes inflamed, which leads to gum disease.
This can cause the following problems:
- The tooth (or several teeth) can be beyond saving and may need to be removed
- Localised pain in the mouth/gums
- Bacteria from the tooth entering the bloodstream, potentially infecting the heart, bones and kidneys
- Infection can enter the jaw bone of the jaw, damaging it irreversibly and increasing the risk of jaw fracture
Symptoms of gum disease in dogs
- Smelly breath
- Loss of appetite
- Bleeding or inflamed gums
- Drooling, pawing at the mouth
- General discomfort
If your dog’s breath is slightly smelly, consider cleaning their teeth. If the breath is smelly in conjunction with any of the other symptoms, you should take them to see the vet as soon as you can.
Remember: there are other causes of bad breath in dogs so if in doubt, always get them checked!
But of course, as we say, prevention is better than cure! The following will help to keep your dog’s teeth and oral health in tip-top condition:
Follow this guide on how to brush your dog's teeth.
Clean their teeth regularly: This is the gold standard of dental care, for dogs as well as humans. Aim to do it every day with the best dog toothpaste for your furry friend. Brushing can help remove and minimise the softer material before it becomes hardened plaque, which only your vet can remove. Your veterinary nurse will be able to advise you on the best teeth-brushing equipment for your dog.
Note: none of the other methods on this list are valid substitutes for tooth brushing and should be used alongside it rather than instead of.
Use a dental diet: Certain dry pet foods are designed specifically to scrape the plaque from your dog’s teeth and keep them nice and clean. Speak to your vet about the best and most reliable dental diets for your dog.
Dental chews and treats: These work in a similar way to dry food in dental diets – but most are full of calories so they’re best to use sparingly.
Avoid too many sugary snacks: Human snacks should be eaten by humans, not dogs! Treat your dog by all means, but be careful not to overdo it.
Trim your dog’s moustache: In some cases, the flossing action of excess fur can make dirty teeth worse, or even lead to perfectly healthy gums & gum tissue becoming damaged. To prevent this and to keep your dog comfortable, make sure dogs with long or wiry fur around the mouth are groomed regularly and that moustaches don’t get too long.
Speak to your vet about additives to your dog’s water.
Need more info?
If you have any concerns about cleaning your dog’s teeth, have a chat with your vet – they’ll be able to tailor their advice to fit your dog and their specific breed.