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How To Care For Your Dog's Teeth

How To Care For Your Dog's Teeth

A big part of keeping your pup healthy is knowing how to care for your dog’s teeth. If the world of doggie dental care is new to you, welcome! Let’s dive into all the need-to-know info about how many teeth your dog has and the best practices to keep those canine chompers sparkling!

Table of Contents

How Many Teeth Does a Dog Have?

If you’ve ever wondered how many teeth your dog has, I have the answer! Puppies start with baby teeth, just like humans. They are temporary teeth that eventually fall out to make room for their adult teeth. Technically these teeth are called deciduous teeth and are commonly referred to as “baby” or “milk teeth.”

Puppies get 28 deciduous teeth, and these baby teeth come in between 2 weeks and 10 weeks of age. These teeth are extra sharp because puppies need help chewing since their jaws are less strong than adult dogs. Those sharp little teefers make it easier for them to eat solid food and chew on treats, toys, and bones. No wonder why puppies are so destructive with all of those extra sharp little teeth!

Puppy teeth start to fall out pretty quickly to make room for their adult teeth. A puppy’s incisors will begin to fall out around 4 months of age, and the others quickly follow. A pup’s pre-molars come in around 5-8 months. Eventually, a dog will have a total of 42 permanent adult teeth. For comparison, humans get about 20 baby teeth and 32 adult teeth. Dogs have a lot more teeth to brush!

How To Care For Your Dog's Teeth

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Dental Disease in Dogs

It is a common misconception that as a pet owner, you don’t need to do anything to help maintain your dog’s dental hygiene because dogs instinctively take care of their teeth through chewing, which removes plaque buildup. While nature does help our furry friends out a little in this area, since the chewing process does help to scrape plaque from their teeth, they still need a little help from us.

The good news is that if your spouse has told you that you’re wasting your money buying your dog so many chew toys… they may be wrong. You can politely inform them that you are helping to care for your dog’s dental health! Periodontal or gum disease can be dangerous for dogs causing severe health complications. Dog dental care should start early to prevent disease and keep your pup in tip-top shape.

Dogs can have very similar dental issues as humans do. Just like people, dogs can break their teeth or get gum disease. Other common problems include toothaches, infected teeth, broken roots, abscessed teeth, mouth tumors, or teeth misalignment (over or underbite issues). Beyond causing discomfort, doggie dental problems can lead to serious health issues. You can avoid trips to the animal hospital or doggie dentist through awareness and mindful monitoring.

Fetch, a division of Web MD interviewed Veterinarians about dog dental health about preventative dental care for dogs. One takeaway that we found interesting is that dogs are 5 times more likely than humans to get gum disease. Dogs have a more alkaline environment in their mouth which promotes plaque formation. Unlike humans, they don’t brush their teeth daily, thus making them more susceptible to gum disease.

How To Care For Your Dog's Teeth

Colleen O’Morrow, DVM, a fellow of the Academy of Veterinary Dentistry and a veterinary dentist practicing in Manitoba, Canada, was interviewed for the study. She had this to say about gum disease in dogs:

“Plaque is made up of saliva, food debris, sloughed cells from the lining of the mouth, oral bacteria, and their by-products. As the plaque thickens from not being brushed away on a regular daily basis, the bacteria multiply.”

That’s how dogs enter the danger zone for the early stages of gum disease. When the bacteria in the mouth multiply, your dog’s mouth recognizes the increase and sends cells to begin to fight the bacteria. Those cells, in turn, cause inflammation and tissue damage, AKA the onset of gum disease. As gum disease progresses, it can destroy the bone, cause tooth loss, and a whole lot of pain for your puppers.

In terms of your dog’s dental health, preventative care is the best care. Making an effort to perform preventive care at home and regular veterinarian visits is worth the effort. Not only will it benefit your pet’s overall health and comfort, but it will also save you money and save your pup from the pain of chronic health issues later.

Signs of Oral Disease

Oral Disease

● Bad breath: Let’s have an honest moment here… dog breath is a thing. It’s pretty standard for a dog’s breath to stink. Bad breath isn’t exclusively a sign of gum disease; however, if your dog’s breath is overwhelming, it may be an indicator of tooth decay or disease.

● Yellow or brown tartar buildup: Tartar begins as soft material on the enamel of the tooth. Without adequate brushing, it hardens and builds up over time. Built-up tartar can cause tooth decay, inflammation, abscesses, and infections, which over time, will harm your dog’s overall health.

● Red & swollen Gums: Every few weeks, you should inspect your dog’s teeth and gums for any abnormalities. A dog’s gums should be pink. If they are white, red, or swollen, you should take action and get a vet visit on the calendar.

Dental pain: In this case, pain is not a good warning sign.
Dental pain is not always present early in the lifespan of gum disease. By 3 years old, about 80% of dogs will develop periodontal disease. Pain is not always evident until the later stages of the disease, as other complications arise.

● Your dog is irritable, lethargic, or won’t eat: Dog’s don’t always express when they are in pain, so if you notice your dog being snappy, unusually sleepy, or not eating, pay attention and seek help.

Tips for Better Dental Health in Dogs

Regular exams:

Your vet knows what to look for. An annual dental exam and cleaning should be a part of your dog’s yearly check-up. It does require anesthesia, which can sound scary, but it allows your vet to thoroughly inspect your dog’s gums and teeth and remove any tartar or pockets of infection that may be hiding under the gum line.

Daily cleaning:

Brushing your dog’s teeth daily is one of the simplest things you can do that has the most significant long-term impact on their dental health. The goal with regular cleanings is to remove plaque from the gum line.

Tips for a good toothbrushing experience:

●  Have the right tools: Use a toothbrush and toothpaste formulated for dogs. Human toothpaste can be toxic for dogs, so don’t skip the special toothpaste! Pick a flavor that you know your dog loves.

●  Make your dog comfortable: Dogs can sense our anxiety. Creating a calm environment will help put your dog at ease and ensure their comfort.

●  Ease into it: You can help prevent a freak out by calmly and slowly helping to familiarize your dog with the experience – beginning with the toothbrush and toothpaste. It’s the human equivalent of getting into the pool when it’s still a touch cool – easing into it makes the shock of the cold water less surprising.

  • Touch your dog’s teeth and gums with your hand – without the toothbrush. THEN touch their teeth with the toothbrush.
  • Let them try the toothpaste by licking it from your fingers. Follow that with adding toothpaste to the toothbrush and begin to slowly brush.
  • Move from front to back and top to bottom.
How To Care For Your Dog's Teeth

Give plenty of good boys and pats along the way, and before you know it, you’ll be done!

How To Care For Your Dog's Teeth

A Few Additional Notations

Daily chew time:

Think of this as “me time” for your dog. The natural act of chewing can help scrape plaque off the teeth. Vets recommend hard rubbery toys or thinner rawhide bones that flex and break easily. So… throw your dog a bone… literally. And let him have at it!

There are many chew toys on the market now made specifically to help clean your dog’s teeth. Monitor the chew sesh and opt for a dental chew toy over hard chew toys that may cause fractures in their teeth.

Quality dog food:

Feeding your dog a healthy, balanced diet is one of the best ways to maintain their overall health to keep them in their prime. Your vet may recommend a specific blend if they have difficulty with plaque and tartar formation.

Feeding your dog good quality food and regularly maintaining your dog’s oral hygiene will go a long way to prevent serious health issues. 

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