The sooner you begin a dental hygiene program for your puppy, the more comfortable it will be when having its teeth cleaned. Brushing your dog's teeth regularly will prevent gum disease, tooth loss, and stinky breath. The latest thinking is that pet owners should brush their dog's teeth at least a few times a week. Your vet can show you the proper way to brush your dog's teeth and what to use; don't use a human toothbrush and human toothpaste.
Dry dog food can help keep your dog's teeth clean and healthy. As your dog chews, the particles from the dry food scrape against the teeth (like a toothbrush) to remove plaque.
Some dogs need regular cleaning and scaling done at the veterinary office; this is done under general anesthesia. Some diseases or malnutrition can lead to dental problems, so be sure your vet checks for tooth or gum disease during yearly checkups.
"If you keep the mouth healthy, the rest of the dog will follow," says Iowa veterinarian, Dr. Robert Culver. "The mouth gives bacteria direct access to the dog's bloodstream; the bacteria gets into the heart and starts chewing away at the valves of the heart," he says. For example, an untreated tooth infection -- perhaps caused by a broken tooth -- can spread to the rest of the body.
Red, swollen, bleeding gums; loss of appetite; drooling; blood in the saliva; broken teeth; foul odor; and yellow or brown tartar deposits along the gumline or in the crevices of the teeth are all signs of dental problems that should be examined by your vet as soon as possible.
- Buildup from plaque and tartar is the most common dental problem dogs face and can lead to inflamed gums (gingivitis), inflammation of the membranes lining the tooth socket (periodontitis), root abscesses and other painful conditions, and possibly infection.
- Chewing on rocks or sticks can lead to a cracked or broken tooth.
- Sharp objects (from pencils to porcupine quills) can cause mouth injuries that can lead to infection.
- Some puppies retain their baby teeth after the permanent teeth have come in. These retained teeth can cause malocclusion (irregular contact of opposing teeth in the upper and lower jaws), preventing adult teeth from growing properly in the correct position. Your vet will decide whether extraction is necessary.
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