How does dental health impact the overall health of my dog?

That is a great question, and we get asked that a lot. Many owners don't realize that their teeth can have a significant impact on internal organ function and general health. What owners think is, "Oh, I'm concerned because my dog isn't eating." And yeah, that is a concern, and if there's a rotten tooth in there, we recommend getting that that worked on, but all of that plaque and tartar that lives on their teeth has bacteria in it. And if you're like me and you only floss right before you go to the dentist, you know that your gums bleed, and so that is a perfect area for that bacteria to get into the bloodstream. And it can go to places like the heart and cause some issues there; it could go to the liver or even the kidneys. And so that's why we advocate for front-end dental management and dental care. And that's why a lot of vets will recommend those routine dental cleanings to keep the dog's teeth as healthy as possible.

Dr. Cara Hill
Advanced Animal Care

What are some signs and symptoms of dental disease in dogs?

The number one thing that owners are going to notice is bad breath. And that's what we hear all the time too. And then if owners take a look in their mouth, sometimes you can get up there and start looking at their teeth a little bit, they can notice some of that plaque or tartar accumulation. And so owners will notice that, but sometimes the pet is unwilling to eat or favoring the side of their mouth because the other side is sore—those would be reasons to have the dog checked by a vet.

Is there anything I can do at home to care for my dog's teeth?

There's a ton of stuff that you can do at home. My personal two favorites are not brushing their teeth. Veterinary dentists say that if you're not brushing their teeth twice a day, just like it's recommended for you or me, then occasional brushing here or there isn't super effective. That's why I like to get dental treats. These treats here have some enzymatic components to them to help eat away at that plaque and tartar, or you can consider something like a water additive. If your dog is not a big chewer, there are water additives out there that you can mix into the water. A lot of them are odorless, tasteless, and they're perfectly safe to give, and they can help work on your dog's teeth at home too.

What are some of the dental diseases that you see in dogs?

The most common ones that we see will be severe tartar accumulation that causes gingivitis or inflammation of the gums, which sometimes can lead to some gingival recession. What that means is the gum line kind of works its way up, which exposes those tooth roots, and then the tooth itself becomes diseased.

The other common one that we tend to see, and it tends to be in dogs who love to chew on bones or rocks or things like that, is a broken tooth. And sometimes we have to pull those too, depending on how the tooth is broken. But many times, it's that severe tartar accumulation.

How often should my dog's teeth be checked?

Younger dogs tend to have healthier teeth and mouths than older dogs. So when they're younger, doing it at their annual exam is a great time to do that. As your pet ages, it may be that we do it every year or every six months. We know some breeds tend to be more problematic in terms of their dentition—smaller breeds like Shih-Tzus, Chihuahuas, or others like that. Sometimes they tend to accumulate tartar at an earlier age, and so we'll check those guys more frequently. But the best thing to do is talk to your vet at their annual visit.

What is a professional dental cleaning like for a dog?

Here at Berea, we do all of our professional cleanings under general anesthesia. The reason for that is because, as much as I would like to ask them not to bite me when I'm working in their mouth, we are working in their mouth and, not that they mean to do it, but sometimes that can happen. Our best way to get a good thorough exam of their mouth to check for pockets, bone loss, root exposure, or other things like that is for them to be under general anesthesia. There are some veterinarians out there that kind of do what they call an awake dental cleaning. It's not something that we offer here because what we strive for is the safety of the patient and the safety of the staff.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (859) 625-5678, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Dog Dentistry/Dental - FAQs

Dr. Cara Hill
Advanced Animal Care

How often should I brush my dog's teeth?

I get asked that question all the time, and the answer is that unless you're going to commit to brushing your dog's teeth twice a day every day, it's not beneficial to do an occasional brushing here or there. The veterinary dentists do recommend twice-daily brushing, which, if you're like me, that's hard to fit into my busy schedule. So, what I like to do instead is give things like dental treats, dental chews, or even something like water additives because then I feel like I'm rewarding my dog with a treat, and it's helping take care of their teeth.

Can dogs get cavities?

They can, in a sense. It's not what you think about you or I getting a cavity, and we don't do fillings here. That's what many people get for their cavities at the dentist, but we have different ways to manage them.

Are there any chew toys that are just as effective at brushing my dog's teeth?

There's a ton on the market that you can find, and the question is, are they effective? And that brushing action is beneficial, but again, it's one of those things that it has to be used consistently to be as efficacious. And there are some that you can put the toothpaste in, and we always recommend toothpaste made for pets. We don't want to give them any human toothpaste.

But yeah, if treats or chews are used consistently, they can have an effect. Now, some pets may eventually need a dental cleaning, but it's something worth a try to do at home.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (859) 625-5678, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.