Dental disease affects roughly 85% have significant dental disease by the age of three years old. When it comes to oral health care for your dog, preventive care should be your top priority. If dental concerns are left untreated they could cause further serious health concerns further down the road.
How do plaque and tartar form, and what do they do?
After a meal bacteria begins to buildup on the teeth in a gummy-like coating. This coating is called plaque. In about 24 hours, this newly formed plaque combines with the minerals in the saliva and begins to harden. It is at this stage while the plaque is hardening that it becomes tartar or calculus. Tartar is rough and porous and can develop above and below the gum line.
If the tartar that is present has been building up for a long time then it will need to be removed by a vet with specialized equipment. In order to prevent your dog’s dental health from becoming unmanageable, it is necessary to implement a routine of preventive oral care so that you can help keep the plaque and tartar from building up to begin with.
The two ways that tartar can impact your dog's teeth
First, tartar creates a rough surface on the outside of your dog's teeth that the bacteria will stick to and begin to harden on. This buildup of bacteria can cause inflammation (also referred to as gingivitis), Which can be painful and cause bleeding. It is this gingivitis that can increase your dog's risk of inflammation, pain, and tooth loss. If this tartar goes untreated it will build up along the gumline and push the gums away from the teeth exposing the roots. It is this exposure as the gums recede that causes pain and sensitivity.
Second, if continued to be left untreated the bacteria that causes the tartar to form has the possibility of being absorbed into the bloodstream and deposited in various organs, including the heart and the kidneys, and could potentially cause infection and decreased organ function.
How can I protect my dog's teeth from plaque and tartar?
Having your dog's teeth professionally cleaned and examined by your vet annually is extremely important. After which preventive at-home care is necessary in order to help reduce plaque and tartar buildup. You can do this by:
- Feeding your dog a specialized dental health food that your vet can recommend. This food will help scrub any buildup off your dog's teeth while they are eating.
- Brushing your dog's teeth on a daily basis in order to prevent the buildup of plaque and tartar and reduce the risk of gingivitis.
- Using a specially formulated water additive that reduces the number of bacteria in your dog's mouth.
- Offer chew toys and dental treats to your dog which will scrape any plaque or tartar off their teeth as they are chewing.
It is crucial to your dog's overall oral health to have your vet perform regular dental cleaning and exams at your dog's annual checkups. This will go a long way in preventing serious oral health conditions and ensure the lifelong health of your pet.
How to clean your dog's teeth
Brushing your dog's teeth is an easy way of preventing a variety of oral health issues. Be sure to only use toothpaste that is specifically designed for dogs as human toothpaste contains chemicals that can make your dog sick. It is ideal to start off with occasional brushing if your dog is not used to the process. Begin with brushing for shorter lengths of time and work your way up to longer intervals so that your dog is eased into the routine.
It can be easiest to begin with using your fingers to rub all of their teeth and have them adjust to that before introducing a toothbrush. Be sure that you are working with your dog and at their pace in order to help them adjust and only begin really cleaning your dog’s teeth and gums thoroughly once they are used to it.
Brushing your dog's teeth daily is ideal, please do not go any longer than a week between brushing. It is important that you brush the gum line really well as these areas are more likely to have plaque and tartar buildup.
Providing your dog with food that is formulated to scrub away buildup as well as dental treats that will clean your dog's teeth as they chew are also great ways to help protect your dog's teeth.
When to see your vet about your dog’s teeth
If you are beginning to notice any signs of periodontal disease in your dog's mouth or are having difficulties managing at-home preventive care then it may be a good time to reach out to your vet. Your vet will be able to assist you in caring for your dog's oral health as well as answering any questions you may have and addressing any potential concerns.
Your vet can also work with you to come up with a complete oral health care routine that suits the unique needs of your pet.