Dogs, like us, have two sets of teeth during their lives. The deciduous (baby) teeth appear shortly after birth and are replaced by the permanents at around four to six months of age. Deciduous teeth cause few problems except where they are retained beyond about eight months of age. If this occurs, displacement of the erupting permanents may result. It is prudent therefore to check your puppy’s mouth regularly during this growing stage. If retained teeth are noticed (usually the canines or incisors), these should be extracted by your vet.
Dogs are prone to a number of dental problems, not dissimilar to our own, and if their permanent teeth are to last a lifetime, a certain level of dental care is essential.
Without the advantage of regular brushing, plaque and tartar may build up rapidly on a dog’s teeth, leading to inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) and periodontal membrane (periodontitis), and eventual damage and even loss of teeth. Some dogs will tolerate having their teeth brushed and veterinary formulated toothpastes are available. The majority however must rely on the cleaning action of chewing food to “brush” their teeth. It is important to feed a biscuit diet, and a large raw bone once or twice a week works wonders. Dental chews and other dog chews are also beneficial. For those dogs with serious periodontitis, your vet may prescribe a special “tooth diet”, which is formulated in such a way that the pellets, instead of crumbling, scrub the teeth when chewed.
With the above in mind, have a close look at your dogs teeth. Plaque and tartar appear as off-white to yellow-brown stain on the teeth, often the upper canines and premolars being worst affected. A dental cleaning by your vet will be hugely beneficial if tartar build-up is significant. This procedure is performed under general anaesthesia. An ultrasonic scaler and polisher is used, leaving teeth clean and smooth. A well polished tooth resists plaque accumulation. An added advantage of a thorough veterinary dental is that all the teeth, including the back molars can be properly visualised and examined. It is surprising how often that ‘bad breath’ one may notice in an adult dog is caused by a bad or even abscessed tooth. With correct treatment or extraction where indicated, dog owners will often notice an appreciable improvement in their pet’s appetite and general wellbeing. This is not surprising when one considers how uncomfortable and painful it is to suffer toothache.