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Dr. Gary Clemons Feb 22, 2017

Dental disease is the most common disease process we encounter in dogs. Because most owners do not brush their dog’s teeth, food particles accumulate between the gums and the cheek. Bacteria utilize the food as their own food source and they eventually create infection and inflammation under the gum line which is called gingivitis. Over time, the bacteria break down the attachment of the gum to the tooth and the pocket gets deeper. As the pocket deepens, the bacteria begins eating away the bone that holds the tooth in place. The tooth becomes more diseased and may have to be removed. This process is called periodontal disease, which affects humans as well as our pets. Toy breeds are at greater risk because their tooth roots are every short and even minimal bone loss often requires tooth removal.

Prevention is the key to keeping your dog’s mouth healthy. Even though it is not always easy to do, brushing is still the “gold standard” for optimal oral health. Getting your puppy started getting used to a tooth brush is essential. I recommend placing some good tasting dog toothpaste on your finger and rubbing it on their gum so they get used to placing things in their mouth. Then you can use a child’s toothbrush for smaller breeds and an adult toothbrush for larger breeds. You don’t have to brush the inside surface of the teeth, just the outside surface. You can actually reach most of the teeth without opening their mouth. Approved dental chews such as rolled rawhide help clean the premolars and molars.

I personally feel when dogs chew on dry dog food, it accumulates in the cheek between the teeth and gums and becomes the food source for the bacteria. I feel adding water to the food to soften it before feeding will decrease the accumulation because dogs don’t have to chew it as much.

Most dogs require a professional cleaning by five years of age if their owners don’t provide proper routine dental maintenance. Following a professional cleaning, the teeth can require an additional cleaning within one or two years.

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