Dental Disease in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Dental Disease in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Katelyn Son
By Katelyn Son
Medically reviewed by Ivana Crnec, DVM
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What is Dental Disease in Dogs?

Dental Disease in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Dental disease in dogs is an umbrella term covering different problems affecting the dog’s teeth. Dogs are susceptible to many dental diseases, and if left untreated, they lead to chronic pain and loss of bone.

Dental disease in dogs can affect the visible part of the teeth, the tooth root, or the gums. Proper home care – daily brushing and using dog dental cleaning products are the best way of preventing dental disease.

What Are the Types of Dental Disease in Dogs?

There are different types of dental disease in dogs. Here are the most common ones:

  • Gingivitis. As opposed to humans, the most common form of dental disease in dogs doesn’t include tooth decay. Rather, gums are more affected in dogs. Gingivitis is a common dental issue where gums become inflamed and also bleed.
  • Plaque and Tartar Build-Up. Plaque is the biofilm that sticks to the dog’s teeth and consists of bacteria and chemicals from the saliva and dog food. Unless brushed off, it transforms into tartar, which is stronger and can only be removed via professional dental cleaning (scaling).
  • Periodontitis. This is a severe form of gum disease in dogs where the ligaments and the bone of the teeth are also affected. This condition can be quite painful and irreversible. Advanced periodontal disease leads to tooth loss. According to a 2020 study, periodontitis affects over 80% of dogs over three years of age.
  • Endodontic Disease. These are the dental issues that occur within the teeth. Herein, the bone of the tooth gets affected, which can be of several types: fracture, breakage, and tooth decay. This condition can be natural or the result of accidents such as biting on something hard.
  • Tooth Abscess. A tooth abscess is a specific infection that develops around the tooth root. It develops when bad bacteria enter the tooth through a diseased or fractured part. The bacteria multiply and eventually start producing pus. Abscesses are very painful.
  • Malformations. Some breeds are prone to congenital abnormalities in the mouth. A common example is an overbite or malocclusion, in which the upper jaw is longer than the lower. Over time, the misalignment leads to jay straining and dental problems.
  • Bad Breath. Also known as halitosis, bad breath is not a disease in itself. Instead, it is a side effect or consequence of many dental diseases. Halitosis is not life-threatening or dangerous, but it is a nuisance for the owner.
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What Causes Dental Disease in Dogs?

Dental disease in dogs is caused by genetics, poor oral hygiene, and trauma.

  • Genetics. Certain dog breeds are more prone to malocclusions, jaw abnormalities, and teeth misalignments, or even an abnormal number of teeth in the mouth. Eventually, these genetic conditions will trigger dental diseases.
  • Poor Oral Hygiene. This is the most common cause of dental disease in dogs. Poor hygiene leads to inflamed gums and plaque & tartar buildup on the tooth surface resulting in an array of dental problems.
  • Trauma. Trauma refers to traumatic events or accidents that usually result in fractured or otherwise damaged teeth. Fractured teeth are painful and susceptible to additional dental disease. Therefore, they should be removed.

What are the Symptoms of Dental Disease in Dogs?

The following are the most obvious signs indicating dental disease in dogs:

  • Missing Teeth: This is a common symptom result of dental diseases and accidents.
  • Discolored Teeth: Indicates tartar and or bacterial plaque.
  • Swollen Gums: Occurs in the early stage of periodontal disease, before the gum line recedes.
  • Bleeding Gums: Can indicate both dental injury and periodontal diseases.
  • Bad Breath: Indicates tartar accumulation or bacterial infection.
  • Excessive Salivation: Drooling results from both periodontal and endodontic diseases.
  • Bloody or “Ropey” Saliva: Indicates dental injury or infection in the mouth.
  • Irritability: Mood swings arise from dental diseases accompanied by acute or chronic pain.
  • One-Sided Chewing: Indicative of periodontal disease, oral cavity, or dental injuries.
  • Loss of Appetite: A common symptom associated with most dental issues.

Can Dental Disease in Dogs Be Cured?

Dental Disease in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

It depends. While some forms of dental disease in dogs can be cured, others can only be managed – stopped and prevented from progressing into more severe conditions.

For example, gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) can be cured in the early stages. However, if it progresses into periodontal disease and the gum line is already receded, the condition cannot be cured. Instead, the goal is to prevent the gum line from receding further (which would cause tooth loss).

How is Dental Disease in Dogs Treated?

There are different treatment options for dental disease in dogs. Here are some of the common options:

  • Oral Health Care Products. Dental products for dogs can be used on a daily basis to support oral health and either prevent or manage dental disease. Such products include dental chews, water additives, toothbrushes & toothpaste, dental wipes, etc.
  • Professional Dental Cleaning. This dental procedure is also known as teeth scaling and is performed under general anesthesia. The vet will use a scaling machine (special ultrasound machine) to scrape the tartar from the tooth surface, thus preventing periodontal disease & tooth loss.
  • Antibiotics. When dealing with a tooth abscess, the vet will prescribe antibiotics to manage the inflammation. Antibiotics are also prescribed following a professional dental cleaning.

What do Vets do for Dental Disease in Dogs?

To diagnose dental disease in dogs, vets start with a physical checkup and then focus on an oral examination. Based on the initial findings, they will suggest dental radiographs.

The teeth x-rays will show the extent of the disease – of it affects only the tooth or its supporting structures as well.

If the treatment option entails general anesthesia, the vet will order blood work to assess the dog’s overall health and determine which anesthetic agent is best for the situation.

Is Dental Disease in Dogs Fatal?

On its own, dental disease in dogs is not fatal – it is painful, but it is not life-threatening.

However, if left untreated, it can progress and have fatal consequences. For example, the bacteria from a tooth abscess can spread to distant organs, causing potentially fatal heart disease or kidney disease.

How can You Prevent Dental Disease in Dogs?

Dental Disease in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Dental health problems can be prevented by maintaining good oral hygiene. Here is a close look at some products that can be used to avoid dental disease in dogs:

Vets Preferred Oral Care Water Additive for Dogs. This is the most convenient daily use product for your dog’s dental care. A refreshing mouthwash that effectively removes any tartar buildup and bacterial infections in your dog’s mouth. This also enhances your dog’s gum health with daily use. A vet-recommended product with a 100% money-back guarantee if unsatisfied.

Based on 1,081 customer reviews, this product has an average of 4 out of 5 stars. Customers state that this mouthwash has quick action and effectively removes bad breath and tartar issues in their dogs.

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Vets Preferred Dog Enzymatic Toothpaste. This is the perfect toothpaste for additional gum and dental care. This all-natural dog toothpaste is gentle yet effective. This toothpaste removes bacteria and tartar buildup and improves gum health. It has a peanut butter flavor and is appealing to dogs. This is a vet-recommended and GMP-certified product.

Based on 360 customer reviews, this product has an average of 4.2 out of 5 stars. Pet owners state that their dog’s dental well-being has significantly improved after using this.

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VetSmart Dog Breath Freshener: Eliminate Bad Breath and Prevent Oral Disease. This breath freshener comes in a spray form and is vet-recommended. It is suitable for fussy dogs who are not fond of bruising their teeth daily. All you need is one spray of this product to your dog’s mouth to support dental health. It contains aloe vera, cloves, honey, and cinnamon.

Based on 1,582 global ratings, this product has an average rating of 4.2 out of 5 stars. Customers claim this is a “5-star product” that has made their pet’s teeth clean and healthy.

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The Missing Link Smartmouth Vet Developed Dental ChewTreats. A vet-recommended dental chew treats that have oral as well as health benefits. This is a hard chew treat for your dogs that gives 7-in-1 benefits of dental health, stronger jaws, shinier coat and skin, stronger joints, better digestion, and essential vitamins.

Based on 280 customer feedback, the chews have a rating of 4.1 out of 5 stars. Dog owners state these dental chews have significantly improved their dog’s overall health, and they love them.

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