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Simple guide to dentistry.

Causes of dental diseases

There are several different factors that interact to determine the risk of a dog developing dental disease.

-        The age of the dog

As your dog matures, they will become more prone to dental diseases.

-        The dog’s breed

Brachycephalic dogs, those that have ‘pushed-in faces’ such as the Boston Terrier, Bulldog, Pug, Shih Tzu, Pekinese etc, are likely to have problems with their teeth.  All dogs have 42 teeth but these breeds have less room to fit them in due to the structure of their skull,  so they are prone to overcrowding and teeth growing at odd angles.  This in turn traps more food debris and leads to a greater build up of plaque, eventually leading to tartar as the plaque combines with minerals in the saliva.  This can lead to gingivitis.   

-        The dog’s diet

Dogs that are fed soft diets will usually have a greater build up of plaque on their teeth compared to those fed dry food, as the dry kibble requires a greater amount of chewing.

-        Home care

Brushing your pet’s teeth and using a specialised dental care diet can significantly reduce tartar build-up.

Preventative Treatments

As always prevention is far better than cure! If you have a young pet we suggest that you discuss an appropriate dental care regime with your vet, to minimize the risk of dental problems in the long term.Currently there are many oral care products in various forms designed to help reduce or prevent dental diseases.  The guide below should help you to decide which option will suit your dog’s needs best. Bear in mind that these products can all be used simultaneously, it’s just a matter of finding a combination of products that works for you. 

-        Dental diets, such as Hills t/d and Royal Canin Dental. These are specialist veterinary diets specially formulated for cats and dogs with (or prone to) dental disease. The kibbles have an abrasive effect to prevent tartar buildup, and the Royal Canin Dental diets also bind calcium in the pet’s saliva so that it is not available for tartar formation. Hills also make Maintenance Oral Care for Felines, which prevents plaque and tartar build up, but also provides a nutritionally balanced diet for your cat.

-        Plaque Off for cats and dogs comes in a granulated form which can be added to your pet’s food, and helps control bad breath, and the build up of plaque and tartar. 

-        Dentastix are a dental treat for dogs only, and are proven to reduce plaque and tartar build up by up to 60%.  Their X shape helps to remove plaque from on and in between the teeth as the dog chews. 

-        Encourage the chewing of toys that help remove plaque from the teeth, such as a Nylabone or Kong.  Many of the Nylabone products have small projections that help clean and massage gums. 

-        Last, but not least, try using a tooth brush and paste. This may be hard to do if the animal is not used to it, so it is preferable to introduce them to tooth brushing at a young age. This procedure is almost exclusively used by dog owners, as cats tend to be far less tolerant of such invasive handling. There are different types of toothbrushes that can be used, from finger brushes to different sized handled brushes which correlate to your dog’s size.  This will be the most labour-intensive choice for you, but can produce excellent results! The guide below outlines the correct technique.

A quick guide to brushing your dog’s teeth

Lift your pets head up slightly and then lift the top lip up to reveal a scissor bite, (this means that you can brush both upper and lower teeth at the same time). Allow them to taste the special toothpaste and slowly brush the teeth.  This should be built up from approximately 15 seconds on each side to 1minute.  Slowly increase the time that you brush for and positively praise your pet if it behaves well, to encourage them to accept it.

Symptoms of dental disease

In order for you to provide the best possible dental care for your pet, you need to be aware of the symptoms that might indicate that there is a dental problem. Below is a guide to detecting the presence and gauging the severity of dental disease.

The early signs of dental disease are

-        Bad breath

-        Accumulation of plaque.

-        Red, swollen gums.

Further symptoms include:

-        Gingivitis

-        Gums receding away from the teeth.

-        Excessive drooling.

-        Dog refusing to eat hard food due to sensitive gums.

-        Runny nose, sneezing.

-        Swelling around the face.

-        Pus around the teeth/gum line.

So you’ve found some evidence that your dog has dental disease, what next?

A trip to the vet is in order. If dental disease is present the most common procedure for a vet to recommend is a “descale and polish” under general anaesthetic.  This involves the removal of tartar, and polishing the enamel to reduce plaque formation.  Decaying teeth and any that are loose may be removed, if they are sufficiently damaged.  Remember that dental disease will be uncomfortable for your pet in the same way that it would be for you, so if you suspect that your pet has a dental problem it is best to address it quickly.