Proper dental hygiene for your dog is an important part of his overall health and well-being. It is good to have a basic understanding of normal tooth development in dogs so you can care for your dogs teeth the best way.
Puppies are born without any teeth. By about two or thee weeks of age, the puppy begins getting his first set of teeth and has about 28 of these temporary teeth after two months. A puppy’s first set of teeth is made up of both incisors and canine teeth, as well as premolars. These teeth begin to fall out, being replaced by permanent adult teeth, when the dog is about 12 weeks old.
Most of the dog’s permanent teeth come in around 6 months of age. During this time, many dogs experience teething pain and want to chew and gnaw on a variety of things to ease the discomfort. By the time all of the dog’s adult teeth have come in, he will have a full set of 42 teeth.
The 12 small teeth in the front of the dog’s mouth are incisors. These teeth are used to pick up small pieces of food and the dog will use them for grooming and removing fleas from his fur. There are also four long, pointed teeth near the front of the mouth called cuspids or canine teeth. These are the teeth used to tear larger pieces of food.
There are 16 premolars along the sides of the dog’s mouth that are used to cut the food into smaller pieces. In the back of the dog’s mouth, there are 10 molars that aid in chewing by crushing the food and grinding it.
Without proper dental hygiene, there is an 80% chance that your dog will develop some sort of oral, periodontal complications before he is three years old. Infections in the gums and broken teeth are common problems, as well as irritation of the tissue in your dog’s mouth. Any of these problems can create bacteria that may enter your dog’s bloodstream, infecting vital organs, like his heart, kidney, lungs, or intestines.
Your veterinarian is the best source for learning the best dental hygiene techniques for your dog. Schedule regular dental check-ups for your dog when he is still young to avoid difficulties when he is older. Routine dental hygiene for your dog can prevent many of the common canine tooth problems, like tartar buildup and gum irritation, while other problems, like malocclusion, can be detected early and treated appropriately.
During a regular canine dental checkup, your vet will typically look for the evidence of tartar and will examine the teeth for looseness, cavities, and other abnormalities. He will also inspect your dog’s gums and palate for irritation or unusual growth. Your dog will usually be under the influence of an anesthesia during the exam, so he can not eat anything the night before the visit.
Sometimes, your veterinarian may suggest blood tests or a complete health checkup before performing the dental checkup with anesthesia. This will determine any other complications your dog my be suffering from, as well as ensure his safety during the upcoming procedure. If your dog already suffers from dental problems, he may be given an antibiotic to treat any existing infection and to prevent further complications.
One of the most obvious signs of infection or disease in your dog’s mouth is bad breath. This can also mean that your dog is suffering from tartar buildup around his gums. This buildup beneath the gum line creates bacteria that can inflame the gums and cause discomfort, as well as other complications.
Tooth decay is not a common problem with dogs. Their teeth are naturally shaped more pointed, making it less likely for foods and liquids to sit on the teeth, and their saliva does not contain the acids found in human saliva. A dog’s chewing reflexes also helps to keep his teeth somewhat clean and prevent tooth decay.
Aside from visiting your vet on a regular basis for canine dental checkups, a veterinarian can also clean and polish your dog’s teeth. This procedure is typically performed every two or three years. It is important for you to train your dog to let you or the vet clean his teeth without becoming upset or trying to bite. Training may take time and it is best to start when your dog is young.
You can also keep you dog’s teeth clean at home in between your dental checkups. There are a number of canine toothbrushes, as well as toothpastes, available today. A finger toothbrush designed for dogs is a great way to start brushing your dog’s teeth. Very similar to an infant brush for newborn gums, this dog toothbrush is worn over the tip of your finger. Using the soft bristles on the side of the finger brush, you can clean and massage your dog’s teeth and gums.
Once your dog has become comfortable with the finger brush, you can start using a standard dog toothbrush to clean his teeth. Holding the toothbrush at a 45° angle to your dog’s gum, move the brush in a short, circular motion around the gum line and then brush the tooth in a vertical motion to remove any plaque or food debris that has been loosened. Take care to brush each tooth to deter tartar formation and include this cleaning in your regular care routine at least twice a week.
The toys your dog plays with and the things he eats are also an important part of your dog’s dental hygiene. Some toys and foods are actually good for your dog’s teeth and mouth, like rawhide bones and specially designed rubber, plastic, and fiber toys made for dogs. Chewing or gnawing on soft, non-damaging items like these can promote healthy dental hygiene by helping clean the teeth. Animal bones and toys that are not designed for dogs can be too hard for your dog’s teeth and cause damage, or may break into small fragments that may choke your dog.
Tips for Proper Dental Hygiene for Your Dog
Start putting your fingers in your dog’s mouth when he is still a puppy so he will be comfortable having his teeth cleaned. Place a small amount of flavored dog toothpaste on your fingertip to encourage your dog. You can even train an older dog to allow teeth cleaning this way. Rub your finger along the sides of your dog’s gums and across the front of them.
If your dog seems to be uncomfortable, try placing a towel on top of the table or a counter top and sitting your dog there. This may discourage him from moving. Use an appropriately sized toothbrush for your dog. Continue to use a flavored toothpaste and gently brush your dog’s teeth. Talk to him and soothe him if he does not like the cleaning and only do a little bit at a time. Work with your dog slowly until he is more comfortable with the procedure.
Only use dog toothpaste. Many of these are flavored to be more appealing to your dog and they are safe to swallow.
It is often hard to get your dog used to a toothbrush. Try dipping an old toothbrush in a saltwater solution and letting your dog chew it. Once he realizes that the brush feels good, he may be more willing to let you clean his teeth with it.
A finger brush is another option. Most dogs have an easier time adjusting to this type of cleaning, but it does not clean as good as a standard toothbrush.
A chlorohexidine spray can be used in your dog’s mouth after each cleaning to prevent bacteria from growing in the back of his mouth.