Canine Dental Health

By: DogTrekker Staff
Dog smiling showing teeth

By Dr. Angela Gaeto, DVM, of the Helen Woodward Animal Center community in San Diego County.

Dental development

Dogs have a set of baby teeth and a set of adult teeth just like people do. Most adult dogs will have 42 permanent teeth. However, just as in the case with people, sometimes not all of the baby teeth fall out. Baby teeth are not designed to withstand the workload of an adult tooth and are therefore more likely to break. This means retained baby teeth are best treated by removal.

Dental cleaning

Dental cleaning is the deep teeth cleaning provided to dogs to maintain good oral hygiene. Veterinary dental cleaning involves general anesthesia. This is often an owner's number one concern. The level of anesthetic risk that pertains to your dog should be considered and discussed with your veterinarian. General anesthesia is necessary for a quality dental exam and cleaning because it is in the best interest of your dog. The vast majority of dogs would not be cooperative for examination of each tooth from all angles, examination of the gum tissue, and evaluation of tooth stability. This will often times require dental radiographs as well. A dental cleaning includes polishing after removal of the plaque and tartar build up which is also why anesthesia is necessary.

Avoiding dental cleaning can lead to serious medical problems such as abscessed teeth, severe bone loss in the jaw, and systemic bacterial infections.

At home dental care

There are many options for owners for at home dental care and also many different tools. At home dental care can range from feeding dental health food and treats, to brushing your pet's teeth. The more cleaning and prevention of plaque and tartar build up that’s done between dental cleanings, the less frequently these cleanings are necessary. Dogs that are susceptible to long term dental disease such as small breed dogs or dogs with dentition abnormalities can have dental food for their diet which will decrease the amount of long term plaque and tartar build up. Dogs can also have treats that will promote dental health by breaking down tartar. Owners can also brush their dog's teeth at home using dog friendly toothpaste in flavors such as poultry, malt, and seafood. Adopting good dental health habits will promote the long-term health of your dog.

It is best to choose products endorsed by the Veterinary Oral Health Council because there is some scientific proof of their efficacy.

Photo Credit: Rennett Stowe (CC)