An estimate of around 80 percent of dogs aging from 3 years old and about have oral diseases, typically involving the gums. This problem affects all breeds but small dogs are more prone to gum disease because they have a lot of teeth crowded into a small space, which makes cleaning more difficult.
Plaque Buildup Can Lead To Gum Disease
When plaque is left on your dog's teeth, it collects there and around the gum line and within a few days, it hardens and develops into tartar. Tartar sticks to the teeth and ultimately irritates the gums. Irritated gums become inflamed -- which is a condition commonly known as gingivitis.
When a dog has gingivitis, the gums will be red rather than pink and his breath becomes stinky. It the tartar isn't removed, it will build up under the gums, which will result in pulling away from the teeth. This creates pockets in the gum tissue that become repositories for additional bacteria.
When this happens, the dog can developed an irreversible condition called periodontal disease, causing considerable pain and can result in infections, abscesses, loose teeth and bone loss.
Factors that affect how quick this process takes place in your dog's mouth include age, overall health, breed, genetics, diet and the frequency and quality of dental care he receives.
Gum Disease Can Lead To Heart Disease
When a dog has periodontal disease, the surface of his gums is weakened. Once the gum tissue has broken down, it allows mouth bacteria to invade your pet's bloodstream and travel throughout his body. If the dog's immune system doesn't kill off the bacteria, it has the possibility to reach the heart and infect it.
Studies have shown that oral bacteria, once entered the bloodstream, seem has the ability to fight off the attacks done by the immune system.
What dog owners don't realize is there's an established connection between gum disease and endocarditis, which is an inflammatory condition of the valves or inner lining of the heart.
Researchers also suspect that there are certain strains of oral bacteria that can lead to heart problems. Some bacteria types found in the mouth of dogs produce sticky proteins that can adhere to artery walls, which cause them to thicken.
Mouth bacteria are also known to promote the formation of blood clots that can damage the heart.
5 Steps To Keep Your Dog's Mouth Healthy
- Feed your dog a species-appropriate, nutritionally balanced, fresh food diet, and feed it raw if possible. Your dog gnawing on raw meat acts as a kind of natural toothbrush and dental floss.
- Brush your dog's teeth regularly, preferably every day. If you can't do it daily, then commit to doing it several days a week. A little time spent each day brushing your dog's teeth can tremendously give good results in terms of his oral health and overall well-being.
- Offer recreational bones and/or high-quality dental dog chew that are fully digestible to help control plaque and tartar. Dental chews have similar effects to raw bones, but are safer for power chewers or dogs that have restorative dental work and unable to chew raw bones.
- Make mouth inspections a habit. Your dog should allow you to open his mouth. Look inside his mouth and feel around for loose teeth or unusual lumps or bumps on the tongue, under it, along his gum line and on the roof of his mouth.
When you do this a few times, you will become aware of any changes that might occur from one mouth inspection to the next. You should also note any noticeable changes pertaining to your dog's health that is not diet-related.
- Regularly bring your dog for oral exams performed by your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will alert you to any existing or potential problems in your pet's mouth and may recommend professional teeth cleaning under anesthesia, if necessary. If you are vigilant about your dog's dental home care and he doesn't have any special situations that involve tartar build-up or other dental issues, then he may never need a professional cleaning by a veterinarian.
However, dogs with extreme tartar build-up, oral infections or badly inflamed gums may need some extra help.