Just because our dogs do not smile, well, not in a typical way, it does not mean they do not need dental care and a set of healthy, clean, and pearly white teeth.
Going to the dentist’s office is scary for most of us, but losing teeth is even more alarming. The same concept applies to our beloved canine friends. Going to the vet’s office is frightening, but so is losing the teeth.
Teeth loss is entirely normal for young puppies going through their teething phase. It is also somewhat normal for senior dogs. However, when an otherwise healthy adult dog has a loose tooth or more, it is time to get the vet involved.
Why Do Dogs Lose Their Teeth?
There are many reasons why a dog may start losing its teeth. Whether the teeth loss can be classified as expected or not depends on the dog’s age.
When Is Losing Teeth Normal?
Just like us, puppies are born without teeth. Later on, when the puppy is about four to six weeks old, it starts growing its deciduous or baby teeth.
They are small and needle-sharp and only stay for a short period. When the puppy is three to six months old, these baby teeth start falling out and are replaced with permanent teeth.
At this time, you can expect to find fallen small teeth everywhere – in your dog’s bed, in your bed, in the food bowl, or even your dog’s coat. It is also entirely normal for the puppy to swallow its fallen teeth.
In fact, not finding fallen teeth is a much more common scenario. The only indicator that your dog is losing its teeth will be the holes in its gums and a drop or two of blood coming from those tiny holes.
In a nutshell, a puppy losing its teeth is a completely normal and expected situation. However, a puppy not losing its teeth is not typical.
If the puppy’s baby teeth fail to fall out due to an underlying condition, the new permanent teeth’ growth is in danger.
In such cases, the vet will extract the retained baby teeth, leaving space for the permanent ones. The extraction is performed in an anesthetized puppy, following the usual surgical protocols.
When Is Losing Teeth Not Normal?
The top two most common causes of an adult dog losing its teeth are trauma and periodontal disease.
Many traumatic events can cause a loss of teeth or teeth. Some are fairly benign and limit their damaging potential to the dental structures while others, such as car accidents and falling from heights, are potentially life-threatening.
The most common traumatic event is linked with the dog’s natural tendency to chewing non-edible items.
When a dog chews on wood, stone, furniture, or simply something that is too hard, broken teeth are likely to occur. Even some dog treats such as chew bones and deer antlers are hard enough to cause significant teeth damage.
If the tooth is slightly damaged, the vet may try to repair it, but most cases end up in extraction – surgical removal of the loose and broken tooth. Depending on the damage’s severity, the procedure may require a veterinary dental specialist.
The best way to prevent dental trauma is to chew-proof your home and consider the toys you allow your dog to play with. Not all chew toys are safe for chewing, at least not for every dog.
To prevent car hits, unless in a fenced area, always keep your dog on a leash. Finally, accidents happen, and you cannot always predict what your dog is going to do next. The important thing is to remain calm and seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.
2. Periodontal Diseased
Periodontal disease is the second culprit for tooth loss in dogs. Periodontal disease is a complex condition that starts with simple tartar build-up.
Over time, as the tartar keeps accumulating, more and more bacteria develop in the accumulation.
Since the tartar accumulates near the gum line, the bacteria from the buildup can easily penetrate beneath the gum line and affect the deeper structures the support the teeth.
What is more, the tartar buildup puts pressure on the gums. To escape the pressure, the gums are starting to move away from the buildup thus leaving the teeth more exposed and more mobile.
Simply put, the tartar affects both the teeth’ deeper support structures and the gums. Eventually, these changes lead to loose teeth.
Periodontal disease is more common among small and toy breed dogs. However, the lack of oral hygiene can easily lead to periodontal disease in any dog, regardless of its size.
A dog with periodontal disease will show the following signs and symptoms:
- lousy breath
- yellowish-brown tartar build-up
- red and swollen gums
- loose teeth
- reluctance to eat
- excessive drooling
- pawing at the mouth
Luckily, periodontal disease is preventable. Maintaining good oral hygiene and practicing frequent check-ups and bi-annual dental cleanings are good ways of preventing or at least delaying the periodontal disease’s onset.
DEBUNKING THE MYTH – Pulling out a loose teeth is easy. My dog seems to have one soI will just pull it out myself
When faced with a loose tooth in their dog’s mouth, most dog parents are tempted to simply pull it out.
However, as simple as the pulling concept may appear, pulling your dog’s teeth is something you must refrain from.
Even if it seems like one gentle push is enough for the lost tooth to fall out, do not embark on this dangerous journey on your own.
This is because when it comes to a loose tooth, there is more than what meets the eye. Namely, the root is always much bigger than the tooth’s visible portion.
Consequently, what may seem like an easy pull often turns into chaos – painful teeth and root fractures, lacerated gums, and a traumatized dog.
Save yourself and your dog from unnecessary drama and schedule a visit to the vet’s office as soon as possible.
Maintaining A Good Oral Hygiene
Generally speaking, the dog’s organism has its own natural ways of maintaining some level of oral hygiene.
For example, certain saliva substances act as natural antiseptics, thus reducing the risk of infection. Plus, the actions of food tearing and chewing mechanically clean the gums.
Lastly, the teeth should be well-spaced, thus preventing unwanted debris trapping.
When The Natural Mechanisms Are Not Enough?
Sadly, sometimes the natural ways of maintaining good oral hygiene can fail or are simply not enough. In such cases, as previously stated, it is time to take the toothbrush into your own hands and help your dog keep its mouth clean and healthy.
Fortunately, keeping your dog’s mouth clean and healthy is not very difficult – all it takes are a canine toothbrush, canine toothpaste, and a well-crafted brushing strategy.
The Canine Toothbrush
Simply put, there is no alternative to teeth brushing. It is essential to brush your dog’s teeth regularly, and by regularly, we mean preferably every day.
Studies show that brushing less than three times a week is entirely inefficient or, simply put, it is the same as no brushing. Therefore, the recommendation is to brush your dog’s teeth, preferably every day or at least every other day.
You may be surprised, but yes… there are toothbrushes specifically designed for dogs. Human toothbrushes are not ideal for dogs because they lack angled heads, and their bristles’ texture is inadequate – they are either too firm or too sharp.
Canine toothbrushes have angled heads with firmly-rooted but soft and gentle bristles. The head should be bent to allow easy access to the otherwise hard-to-reach places.
The bristles must be firmly-rooted to avoid unwanted dislodging. If dislodged, the bristles can stick between the teeth or damage the dog’s sensitive gums.
The modern market offers several different types of dog toothbrushes. The most popular types of dog toothbrushes include the single-head brush, the multiple-head brush, and the finger brush. Each type has its own pros and cons.
There is no universally suitable, one-size-fits-all type of toothbrush for dogs. It all depends on what you and your dog are most comfortable with.
It goes without saying that if you have two dogs, each dog needs its toothbrush. This is important if you want to prevent potential cross-contamination.
The Canine Toothpaste
It is a popular misconception that simple brushing is enough for maintaining the dog’s oral hygiene on a satisfactory level.
Today, many scientific data show that the effects of brushing should be boosted and maximized by using suitable toothpaste.
The term suitable is not used lightly. It is of imperative importance to never use human toothpaste for your dog.
Dog parents must not clean their dog’s teeth with human toothpaste containing due to 3 main reasons.
One reason is that all human kinds of toothpaste have fluoride and the fluoride metabolism is different in dogs and people.
If swallowed, the fluoride is toxic to dogs because they cannot correctly metabolize this non-edible ingredient.
Another problem with human kinds of toothpaste is that they often contain an artificial sweetener known as xylitol, which is extremely toxic for dogs.
Even small amounts of xylitol are enough to cause poisoning clinically manifested with vomiting and neurologic issues (like loss of coordination and seizures). In more severe cases, the poisoning may result in liver failure and even death.
The third reason why human kinds of toothpaste are not suitable for dogs is the way they taste. To be honest, even we consider some toothpaste tastes to be weird. So imagine how our dogs would feel.
Toothpaste explicitly formulated for dogs is made of easily palatable ingredients and unique tastes like poultry, beef, peanuts, or vanilla.
In a nutshell, human toothpaste should not be used for dogs simply because dogs cannot be thought to spit out the toothpaste and eliminate its harmful, non-edible ingredients the way we do it.
The Teeth Brushing Strategy
Last but not least, we need to a word or two about the most challenging part of keeping your dog’s oral hygiene – teaching your dog to accept the process of teeth brushing.
As with any other type of training, it is advisable to start while your dog is still a young puppy.
The process starts by putting your fingers inside your dog’s mouth and leaving them there for several seconds. The goal is for your dog to get used to the idea of having something other than food in its mouth.
Once your dog gets used to this idea, you can replace your fingers with an actual small toothbrush. In the beginning, you do not even need to brush – just put the brush inside and rotate it within the oral cavity.
Then, you can proceed with the actual brushing. At first, it is vital to keep the brushing sessions short. Over time you can slowly increase the length of the brushing session.
Do not forget to reward your dog once the brushing ritual is over. The goal is to link the brushing with a positive experience.
At The Vet’s Office
Sometimes it is necessary to seek professional help. Veterinarians mechanically clean the teeth with a special tool known as an ultrasonic scaler.
Generally speaking, one professional cleaning per year is enough. However, the professional cleanings’ exact frequency varies based on several factors (breed, age, co-existing oral issues). Dogs with compromised oral health require at least two cleanings per year.
Recent studies show that dental problems cause low-grade but chronic pain. Dogs get used to this pain and, more often than not, do not display any pain-related signs.
However, once the issues resolve, dog owners report positive changes in their dogs’ behaviors. Preventing any condition that may cause pain is part of being a responsible dog parent.
Fortunately, dental problems are relatively easy to prevent – just choose a canine toothbrush and paste and start brushing.
At first, this may seem tricky and challenging, but the benefits are definitely worth the troubles at the end of the day.