What kinds of dental problems do dogs have?

Dental disease is as common in dogs as it is in people. The most common form of dental disease in man is decay or caries, in the dog the most common problem is periodontal disease. Tartar builds up and causes irritation of the gums around the base of the teeth, the resulting inflammation is gingivitis.

How does tartar form, and what does it do?

Plaque is an invisible bacterial coating that forms on the teeth within a few hours after a meal. Within 24 hours, plaque starts to harden into calculus or tartar. If tartar is allowed to remain on the teeth, several things may happen.

The tartar will mechanically push the gums away from the roots of the teeth. This allows the teeth to loosen in their sockets and infection to enter the root socket. The teeth will loosen and fall out or have to be extracted.

Infection will accumulate in the mouth, resulting in gingivitis, tonsillitis, and pharyngitis (sore throat). Although antibiotics may temporarily suppress the infection, if the tartar is not removed from the teeth, infection will return quickly.

Infection within the mouth will be picked up by the blood stream and carried to other parts of the body. Some kidney and heart disease may be caused by this infection.
One of the main factors determining the amount of tartar build-up is the individual chemistry in the mouth. Some dogs teeth need yearly veterinary attention, others need attention only once every few years.

How can I prevent tartar formation on my dog's teeth?

There are several things you can do to reduce the rate of plaque and tartar build up.

Brushing of the teeth is the most effective means of removing plaque before it turns into tartar. We recommend the use of CET malt or poultry flavoured toothpaste which is made especially for dogs. CET toothpaste contains enzymes which help to dissolve plaque, as well as its abrasive action. This needs to be done at least twice weekly (preferably daily), but we know that not all dogs will tolerate it. Special brushes are made that make this task easier. It is worth using a finger brush at first as most dogs accept this better than a normal brush. Do the front teeth first then, as the dog gets used to the brushing, gradually progress to the back teeth. Unlike us brushing of the outside of the teeth is all that is really required. A dog's tongue is sufficiently mobile that most of the plaque is removed from the inside (lingual) surface of the teeth automatically. DO NOT USE HUMAN TOOTHPASTES, these are foaming products and are not meant to be swallowed and will be resented by the dog.

Feed your dog on a dried pelleted food. It has been shown that plaque, and therefore tartar, build up more slowly with this type of diet. There is even a diet made specifically to remove plaque, Hill's Prescription Diet t/d. This is a dry food composed of large pieces. Because the pieces are too large to be swallowed whole, your dog must chew them. The food contains fibres that literally scrape the plaque off of the teeth without damaging the enamel. By removing plaque as it forms, tartar formation is greatly diminished.

Give your dog a CET beefhide chew daily. These chews are abrasive so that they scrape plaque and bacteria from the teeth. They also contain the same natural enzymes as the CET toothpaste which help to kill the bacteria which cause plaque.

Logic Oral Gel is a gel which as applied daily and helps to reduce the bacterial count in the mouth, resulting in improved breath and reducing plaque.

These steps can only prevent, or slow, tartar build-up, they cannot remove tartar which has already been formed. If tartar is already present on your dog's teeth, it will need to be removed.

How are dogs' teeth cleaned?

Once tartar has formed, professional cleaning under a general anaesthetic is necessary in order to remove it. Proper cleaning of the teeth requires complete co-operation of the patient so plaque and tartar can be removed properly. For the dog anaesthesia is required to thoroughly clean the teeth. Although anaesthesia always carries a degree of risk, the modern drugs in use in practice today minimise this risk, even for older dogs. Depending on your dog's age and general health status, we may advise a prior blood test to evaluate liver and kidney function and general health status of the patient.

There are two steps in the cleaning process:

Scaling removes the tartar above and below the gum line. This is done with hand instruments and ultrasonic cleaning equipment.

Polishing smooths the surface of the teeth, making them resistant to additional plaque formation.

What type of scheduling is needed for teeth cleaning?

An appointment will be necessary and you will be asked not to feed the dog overnight before the procedure.
On collection you may be asked to return after a few days to check that all is well, particularly if any extractions have been carried out. Advice regarding dental prophylaxis, brushing, cleaning and use of anti-plaque products etc. will be given..