- Coat Care
- Grooming Tools
- Health & Wellness
- Home & Travel
- Expert Advice
Posted by Dr. Judy Morgan on July 24, 2018
Why is it important to keep your dog’s teeth clean? 80% of dogs have dental disease by age 3. That’s a pretty staggering statistic. It’s actually the most common clinical disease seen in dogs.
And not only is it common, canine dental disease can turn into serious health problems later in life.
Where It All Starts
Dental disease begins when bacteria turns into plaque that sticks to the surface of the teeth. Minerals in the saliva harden the plaque into tartar which spreads under the gum line. Bacteria under the gum line secretes toxins which contribute to tissue damage.
This bacteria is considered a foreign invader by the immune system and it causes an immune response. The immune system reacts, inflammatory chemicals move in and these chemicals cause damage to the supporting tissues of the tooth. Instead of solving the problem, your dog’s own immune system makes the disease worse.
Dental disease has many causes. Diet is a huge component, but it’s not the only component … genetics, inflammation, infections, medications, a Jing deficiency, and a lack of dental care may also be contributing to its development.
When we talk about genetics, some breeds are predisposed to dental issues. Here are some examples:
17 Days. The difference is staggering. (Note: the dog’s teeth returned to a healthy state after returning to a raw diet).
By far, the most common cause of canine dental disease is diet.
Unfortunately, the theory that dry food helps clean the teeth is a well-established and accepted myth.
The truth is, dry food causes dental decay.
This is because carbohydrates are a major component of most commercial kibbles. These carbs break down into sugars and those sugars stick to the teeth. Hello dental disease.
According to Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine, kidney Jing is the life essence – you’re born with it and it’s responsible for the proper formation of the brain, bones and teeth. If your dog has a Jing deficiency this means he has less life essence.
This may be due to: genetics, poor nutrition of the mother, immune system challenges (over-vaccination), vaccination during pregnancy, infection during pregnancy, medications given to a mother during pregnancy or to a puppy early in life (tetracycline, doxycycline, oxytetracycline, minocycline), infections or inflammation early in life.
What are the symptoms of dental disease? If your dog has one or more of these issues, he may be suffering from dental disease:
Dental issues and dental disease don’t just affect the teeth. Dental issues can actually lead to other serious health issues:
For humans, dental care is an important part of our daily hygiene routine. So why aren’t we taking the same care with our dogs’ teeth?
Diet, raw bones, brushing and natural at-home dental care can go a long way.
What can you do at home? There are lots of products on the market that can be used to keep your dog’s teeth clean:
But not all are created equal (of course!) and not all are safe.
For example, these are some of the common ingredients found in the dental rinses, sprays and pastes that are on store shelves. These are ingredients that shouldn’t be in your dog’s mouth:
So what can you use to safely keep your dog’s teeth clean? Look for natural products that contain these ingredients:
Even after you’ve tried your best to keep your dog’s teeth clean naturally, and have done everything you can to avoid going to the vet, sometimes professional examination and cleaning (under anesthetic) is unavoidable. I know that the thought of putting your dog under can be scary, but for proper dental care sometimes it’s essential.
There are anesthesia-free alternatives now, but unfortunately this process often just doesn’t get deep enough (read Why Not Non-Anesthetic? below). So if your dog really needs his teeth cleaned or dental surgery, the key is to make sure the procedure is done properly and safely.
If your dog does end up needing a professional cleaning, first you want to make sure your dog is healthy enough to go under anesthesia. Your vet should run the necessary tests before you agree to the procedure. Depending on your dog’s condition, pre-anesthesia testing may include:
This way, based on those tests, your vet can tailor the anesthesia based on what your dog has going on. Anesthesia should never be done on a one-size-fits-all basis.
The more info you have going into the procedure, the better, so don’t be afraid to ask these questions:
Find a vet who will partner with you, one who recognizes your fears and is willing to do everything to make it easy (and safe) for both you and your dog.
Why Not Non–Anesthetic?
For many nervous pet owners, going the non-anesthetic route sometimes seems like a safer choice. But I honestly don’t recommend non-anesthesic cleanings. They just don’t get deep enough. Without anesthesia, you’re looking at an inability to clean under the gums, the inside surfaces of teeth and behind the back teeth. Loose or damaged teeth aren’t going to be removed. Pain is common and your dog could be injured if he moves during the procedure. Non-anesthetic cleanings will also result in subpar polishing (or none at all) which makes it easy for plaque and tartar to build up.
Just because your dog’s mouth and teeth look good on the surface or with a really quick glance, doesn’t mean things are great when you look closer.
Sometimes raw meaty bones are enough to keep your dog’s teeth clean, healthy and strong, but it’s not always that simple. Canine dental care is so important, not just for the health of your dog’s teeth and mouth, but his overall health! Don’t skimp.