VOSD Vet

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Dental Issues in Dogs

Introduction

Dental ailments in canines encompass a broad spectrum of problems, ranging from gingivitis to fractured teeth. Timely identification and treatment of dental issues are crucial to prevent discomfort, infections, and tooth loss in dogs.

While our furry companions may not always vocalize their pain, they exhibit signs such as reluctance to chew, a preference for softer foods, dropping food while eating, or pawing at their mouths. Studies indicate that advanced periodontal disease may elevate the risk of chronic kidney disease and systemic inflammation. Collaborating with your veterinarian is essential to ensure your dog maintains a healthy oral cavity.

The Most Common Dental Issues in Dogs

Gingivitis

Gingivitis refers to the inflammation of the gums, marking the initial stage of periodontal disease, and it can be reversed through treatment. It stands out as one of the most prevalent disorders identified during routine wellness exams and tends to become more prevalent as dogs age. Mild cases of gingivitis can be managed at home with regular toothbrushing. However, more moderate to severe cases necessitate professional dental cleaning to remove plaque and tartar buildup and to polish the teeth.

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease affects the tissues surrounding the teeth, including the gums, bone, periodontal ligament, and cementum. It typically initiates with gingivitis and progresses to bone loss around the tooth, leading to loose teeth. Treatment for periodontal disease varies based on its severity and may include scaling and root planing, bone grafts, and tooth extraction. It is highly prevalent in dogs but can be prevented through regular dental cleanings and at-home brushing.

Tartar and Plaque Buildup

Plaque, a combination of oral bacteria and proteins from saliva, adheres to the teeth and begins to form just minutes after brushing. Tartar, or mineralized plaque, can only be removed through professional veterinary scaling and polishing, which necessitates anesthesia for pets. Just like humans, dogs require regular toothbrushing to prevent plaque buildup and subsequent gingivitis.

Tooth Fractures

Tooth fractures fall under endodontic disease, affecting the pulp of the tooth, which comprises vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. Fractured teeth can lead to bacterial invasion of the pulp, causing pain and eventual tooth death. Treatment options include tooth extraction or root canal therapy to eliminate inflammation and infection. Vigorous chewing on hard objects can contribute to tooth fractures.

Malocclusions

Malocclusions refer to abnormal fits between the teeth and jaw, often resulting in teeth hitting other teeth, the palate, or the lips. These issues can arise due to abnormalities in jaw length or position of teeth. Malocclusions are painful and require treatment such as orthodontics to adjust tooth position or tooth extraction to restore comfort and functionality to the dog’s mouth.

Treatment

The optimal treatment approach for dental diseases is tailored to each dog, considering factors such as the type of disease, its severity, and treatment objectives. For dogs presenting with gingivitis or early-stage periodontal disease, scaling and polishing of the teeth are effective treatments. It is recommended that small dogs undergo their first cleaning by the age of 2, while large dogs should have theirs by age 3. An anesthesia-assisted cleaning, coupled with an oral examination and dental x-rays, offers the most comprehensive evaluation and treatment of dental issues.

In cases of advanced periodontal disease characterized by significant bone loss around the tooth, tooth extraction emerges as the preferred treatment option. Removing diseased or loose teeth not only promotes oral health but also enhances mouth functionality by alleviating pain and inflammation. Following a brief healing period, dogs can resume eating kibble and engaging with chew toys, with minimal impact on the positioning of their remaining teeth.

Fractured teeth may be salvageable through root canal therapy, particularly for important teeth like canines in medium to large breeds. However, extraction remains the preferred course of action for extensively damaged teeth, ensuring complete removal of the dead tooth.

Malocclusions necessitate various treatment modalities, including orthodontic adjustments, tooth extractions, or tooth shortening. Orthodontic interventions involve applying pressure using buttons, elastics, or specialized appliances to reposition teeth. It is crucial to assess puppies and young dogs for malocclusions during their growth stages to prevent oral discomfort and associated issues such as oronasal fistulas or tooth decay. Board-certified veterinary dentists offer tailored treatment plans to ensure dogs enjoy a pain-free mouth for years to come.

Prevention

Periodontal disease stands as the most prevalent ailment among dogs aged 3 and older, yet it is entirely preventable. Introducing toothbrushing to your dog at an early age can transform it into an enjoyable aspect of their daily regimen. Begin by allowing your dog to lick dog-safe toothpaste from the brush, gradually progressing to actual brushing with a dog-safe toothbrush. Three back-and-forth strokes on the outer surfaces of the teeth are effective. Following a successful toothbrushing session, remember to reward your pet with a special treat.

Regularly discuss your pet’s oral health with your veterinarian during annual wellness check-ups. Commencing dental cleanings and examinations early in your dog’s life can keep gingivitis in its reversible stage and prevent the bone loss associated with advanced periodontal disease. Investing in cleanings under anesthesia during your dog’s youth helps stave off discomfort and the necessity for invasive treatments later on. Younger animals typically recover from anesthesia more swiftly, making it safer for pets devoid of heart, kidney, or liver issues.

In addition to daily or alternate-day toothbrushing, incorporating dental diets, chews, and water additives into your dog’s routine can also aid in reducing plaque and tartar buildup. These products help bind bacteria byproducts that can harm the gums. The Veterinary Oral Health Council offers a list of home care products approved by veterinary dentists. By collaborating with your veterinarian and establishing a dental regimen early in your dog’s life, you can ensure your furry friend enjoys a healthy mouth for years to come.

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