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As diligent as many dog owners are about everything from parasite prevention to wellness exams, many people discount the importance of dog dental care. Unfortunately, this neglect can lead to more than a painful mouth, as dental disease can wreak havoc on the entire body. If you suspect your dog has dental issues, you may have turned to the internet for answers. We’re glad you found us! To prevent the misinformation you can find online, we’ve answered frequently asked questions on dog dental care and shared those facts with you below.

At Crescenta Cañada Pet Hospital, we understand you need reliable information to make the right decisions for your dog. While the information below is accurate, it’s always best to talk to us about any questions you may have on how to best care for your canine companion. 

How does dental health affect my dog's overall health?

Because dogs can't speak for themselves, we have to look at their teeth and decide if there are any problems because dental issues can cause pain in their mouths. From a broad perspective, keeping their teeth clean can keep that bacteria from spreading into their bloodstream and impacting the heart valves, kidneys, liver, and immune system. This kind of preventive care for periodontal disease can extend the quality and duration of the dog’s life.

How do I know if my dog is having dental problems?

There are a couple of things you might see (or smell!); first and foremost would be bad breath. You might see them being more irritable. They could also have trouble chewing, food might fall out of their mouth, or they might eat more slowly or only out of one side of their mouth. Perhaps they’re not playing with their favorite toys.

The earlier physical signs often include reddened gums or changes in tooth color, and, as the dental disease progresses, you could see a loose tooth or teeth that are black or brown. However, the best way to know is to get annual checkups at a minimum because we might see things like Gingivitis or gum recession, tumors, or cysts.

Dog getting its teeth brushed by owner

How can I care for my dog's teeth at home?

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You can do many things to care for your dog’s teeth at home. The best thing is to brush your dog's teeth daily, which likely sounds outrageous because we are all busy, but getting that food debris, bacteria, and tartar off their teeth regularly is the best way to keep them healthy. You want to use a dog-approved toothpaste, as canines can’t swallow fluoride.

If brushing doesn't work for you because of your dog's personality or schedule, we can consider other options, such as certain dental chews or treats. The Veterinary Oral Health Council ( has many treats that a veterinary dentist approves, such as Greenies and other brands. There are even water additives or wipes that you can use right on the dog’s teeth.

What are some of the common dental diseases in dogs?

Dogs have many of the same dental diseases as people, with the addition of some that go hand in hand with things that dogs do, such as roughhousing and chewing.

Some of the most common dental diseases in dogs are:

  • Gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums, which usually happens because of increased bacterial load in the mouth and the physical irritation of the calculus or tartar buildup on the teeth
  • Fractured teeth due to dogs chewing on things, and those can expose and lead to abscess infections at the tooth root
  • Cavities in dogs, although we don’t see that as much as in people
  • Cysts or benign growths
  • Traumatic injury in the mouth

Why is early detection and diagnosis of dental disease so important?

The biggest reason early detection and diagnosis of dental disease in dogs is so important is that the earlier we find something, the easier it is to fix it. And so, when we see early dental disease, we can typically resolve it with cleaning. Before the cleaning, we thoroughly examine the mouth and take dental X-rays to look for underlying problems. A mild case of Gingivitis is relatively easy to fix. When the dental disease goes unchecked for years, however, we often have a lot of tooth decay, leading to several extractions—making it a much more involved and invasive procedure and more expensive.

Veterinarian examining a dog's mouth and teeth

How often should my dog's teeth be checked?

We should check your dog’s teeth at least once a year or more for breeds that are more prone to dental disease. A few examples would be any small breeds and brachycephalic breeds, like  Pugs or French Bulldogs. Dachshunds are also at a higher risk of dental issues.  As dogs age, we often want to see them more regularly for many reasons, and the teeth are at the top of that list. Many cardiac problems can be associated with poor dental health as well. Regular dental exams are the key to good overall health in your dog.

What does a professional dental cleaning look like for a dog?

In some ways, it's very similar to what you get at your twice-a-year cleaning at your doctor's office. The big difference is that we can't ask your dog to sit still and say, "Ah." And so, in nearly every situation, a dog’s teeth cleaning will involve anesthesia, and that's not only, so they'll hold still. We also use anesthesia because we enlist an ultrasonic scaler that uses water to help clean the teeth, which aerosolizes bacteria. We want to have a breathing tube in place to protect their airway.

Whenever we do any dental procedure on dogs, we do full dental x-rays of all their teeth to evaluate everything under the gum line. You can't detect many problems just by looking at the teeth themselves. And so they are included in any procedure that we do.

We probe around the teeth and look for pockets and broken teeth. After the x-rays, we scale and clean them with the ultrasonic scaler. Many pet owners don’t realize we also polish the dog’s teeth. We polish the teeth because when we do the scaling, we can cause minor defects in the teeth, and then the polish keeps bacteria from sticking to them.

In addition to this, we also do complete dental charting, which you've probably had at your doctor's office, although they may not have verbalized it to you. We take a small probe to test the health of the gums around the teeth and examine the entire mouth and all the structures in it to make sure everything looks healthy. Even though we call it dental cleaning, the actual cleaning is the least essential part in many ways. The cleaning is the removal of the tartar and polishing, but all the things just mentioned are the most critical parts of that dental procedure.

If you have additional questions about dog dental procedures, we are here to help. As your dog’s veterinarian in La Crescenta,CA, we would be more than happy to discuss their dental needs and any other concerns you may have. Call us at (818) 248-3963, or drop us an email at [email protected] today.

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