As members of the family, we want to do everything we can for our four-legged friends, and that includes keeping your dog’s teeth clean and healthy. But how do you keep your dog’s teeth clean and healthy? What is the best way to keep your dog’s teeth clean without brushing? Can you keep your dog’s teeth clean naturally? We take you through the best way to keep your dog’s teeth clean, how to keep your dog’s teeth healthy and some fun facts with bite!
Like humans, dogs have two sets of teeth: twenty-eight deciduous (baby/milk) teeth that come through around six to eight weeks of age, and forty-two adult teeth, which replace the deciduous teeth at approximately six to eight months old. Just like us, they have four types of teeth: incisors, canines, molars and pre-molars.
Incisors are used for scraping, tearing, biting and grooming. They’re the small teeth in the front of your dog’s mouth, and there are twelve in total – six on the bottom and six on the top.
Canines are used to tear and shred food, as well as puncture. These are the four long pointed teeth, commonly referred to as fangs, that are responsible for your dog’s unique ability to hold and grip onto things.
Molars are right at the back of the mouth, and their flat surface breaks down hard food through grinding and chewing. There are four at the top of the mouth and six at the bottom.
Premolars are also at the back of the mouth, with eight on the top and eight on the bottom. Used for shearing, premolars are sharp and sit behind the molars.
How to Keep Dog’s Teeth Clean:
Believe it or not, dental disease of one of the most common medical conditions seen by veterinarians. However, few dogs actually show signs of dental disease. Given the discomfort and costs involved with dental disease, prevention is always better than a cure.
So, what are some of the best things to keep your dog’s teeth clean?
- Toothbrush: Partnered with deliciously flavoured toothpaste for your pooch, a toothbrush is one of the best ways to keep your dog’s teeth clean. There might be some training involved, but as dogs are food motivated, it may not be as difficult as you think. We recommend you start brushing your dog’s teeth as a puppy and aim to brush their teeth every day or at least two to three times a week. Start by desensitising your dog to gum handling, and then introduce the toothbrush and toothpaste with lots of praise and encouragement.
- Dental Powder: If the toothbrush isn’t for you and your canine, adding a dental powder to their meal is another way to keep your dog’s teeth clean without brushing. These powders reduce bad breath and plaque and tartar build-up in your dog’s mouth while promoting healthy bacteria.
- Dental Water Additives: A mouthwash for dogs, these oral solutions aid in supporting healthy teeth and gums. They control plaque and tartar build-up, as well as reduce bad breath. As with human mouthwash, this is not a replacement for brushing.
- Dental Spray Gel: These products contain disinfectant aids that help maintain oral health and control gingivitis and periodontal disease in dogs. Bonus points, it reduces bad breath!
- Dental Wipes: Helping to remove plaque and tartar build-up, dental wipes can be used as an alternative toothbrush.
- Dental Food: Clinically proven to reduce dental disease, prescription dental dog food is another option if your dog is prone to periodontal disease or just hates the toothbrush. You will need a prescription, so best to chat with your veterinary professional before making any decisions.
- Dental Treats: A popular question we are asked is if bones keep a dog’s teeth clean. The answer is yes; bones can be one of the best foods to keep your dog’s teeth clean. The mechanical action of chewing aids in the removal of plaque build-up. Though, not all treats or chews are suitable for your dog’s teeth. Your dog’s teeth are powerful, but they’re not indestructible and are still prone to breaks, chips, fractures and cavities. Sweets, ice, plastic bones and bones with no give can cause serious damage. So, while bones and treats can help keep your dog’s teeth clean, it’s important to check that they have the Veterinary Oral Health Council Seal of Acceptance on the packaging.
- Dental Toys: Fantastic for chewing and gnawing, dental toys provide an interactive form of oral maintenance for your dog. They remove plaque and tartar build-up, freshen bad breath, stimulate blood circulation, which helps to promote healthy gums, and they also keep your pooch entertained!
- Dental Clean: Regular dental check-ups are just as important for your dog as they are for us. An annual examination and dental cleaning, or dental prophylaxis, will help to prevent any dental diseases and assist in managing your dog’s oral care. Many dental conditions are only evident by looking inside your dog’s mouth, and who better to do this than a professional?
The Importance of Keeping Your Dog’s Teeth Healthy:
Keeping your dog’s teeth clean and healthy has nothing to do with their smile and everything to do with their overall well-being. If your dog’s teeth aren’t cleaned, it can lead to a build-up of bacteria on the teeth called plaque. This sticky film then hardens and becomes tartar. If not removed, it can cause painful and severe dental issues for your pet, such as bleeding gums, broken teeth, bad breath and discolouration.
Moreover, poor oral hygiene is directly linked to other health-related issues in dogs – just like us as humans! Dental diseases increase the risk of heart disease, complicate diabetes, affect the immune system and can even lead to a broken jaw in some dogs.
The most common dental diseases are:
Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums due to the build-up of bacterial plaque. Symptoms include swollen or inflamed gums, bad breath, bleeding and discomfort. Gingivitis can be treated with a dental cleaning from your vet. If left untreated, it can lead to periodontitis.
Periodontitis is a serious gum infection that, if left untreated over time, can damage the tissue so severely that it can kill the bone and result in tooth loss. Affecting the gums, ligaments and bone, periodontitis can be managed with professional teeth cleaning but cannot be cured.
Cavities are permanently damaged areas in the hard part of teeth that develop into tiny openings or holes. They can be caused by any combination of factors – bacteria in the mouth, acid production, loss of minerals – and, if left untreated, can get bigger and go deeper, leading to severe toothaches, infections and even tooth loss. While they aren’t as common in dogs (compared to humans) due to the different structures of their teeth, it is something to look out for depending on your dog’s breed.
Keeping your dog’s teeth clean and healthy is essential to managing their overall health and comfort. If your dog is showing any of the below signs, we recommend seeking professional veterinary advice.
- Sensitivity when eating
- Problems chewing
- Only chewing on one side
- Receding gums
- Bleeding gums
- Weight loss/loss of appetite
- Yellow or brown teeth
- Excessive drooling
- Pain around the mouth
- Broken or damaged teeth
- Bad breath
- Pawing at the mouth
- Bumps or growths in the mouth
Keeping your dog’s teeth clean and healthy is something that can often be overlooked by pet owners but by maintaining your canine’s oral health, you can avoid major dental issues down the track and a whole lot of distress for your dog. From the best foods to keep your dog’s teeth clean to keeping your dog’s teeth clean without brushing, ensuring your dog’s teeth are healthy should be a priority, and there are plenty of solutions to aid in supporting their oral care.