How does dental health impact the overall health of my dog?

The mouth is a source of infection, and that infection can spread to other parts of the body, leading to infections in other organs, such as the liver or the kidneys. So it's important for the overall health of the dog to take care of the mouth as well.

Dr. William Sean Penn
Horizon Animal Hospital

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

The most important thing in home dental care is brushing the dog's teeth. There are also many different types of dog chews and dental treats. Appropriate brushing and appropriate dog toothpaste will be the best thing we can do. Usually, we utilize a toothbrush like this, and there's special enzymatic toothpaste that can be swallowed. There are oral vet chews that can also be used. The important thing with the chews is you need to make sure that the dog doesn't just swallow the chew. Four out of five dentists say the Trident is good for them, but the Trident gum is not good if they just swallow it. It's a similar situation here. For example, my dog thinks these are just to be inhaled, so they don't work. I have to brush my dog's teeth.

What are some signs and symptoms of dental disease in dogs?

Bad breath is probably the number one sign that owners often see. Dogs may be more reluctant to eat on one side of their mouth. One thing that it usually doesn't do is it doesn't keep them from eating, which is one of the reasons why a lot of dental disease goes unnoticed because owners are very observant when their dog doesn't eat, but maybe not so much with other things going on inside the mouth.

What are some of the more common dental diseases in dogs?

Periodontal disease is number one, which involves inflammation along the gum line that leads to bone loss. As bone loss advances, it leads to more and more exposure to the root of the tooth, and just like a tree, if the roots are too exposed, the tooth is likely to be lost.

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

Early detection can lead to the preservation of teeth and also the prevention of infections that could spread to other parts of the body. Dental care and regular dental evaluations also allow the veterinarian to monitor the formation of masses that might form in the mouth. Some breeds are predisposed to the overgrowth of their gums, so gum disease can sometimes almost cover the teeth up and will need to be treated with surgery.

How often should my dog's teeth be checked?

I would say, in general, annually. There are some dogs that require dental care more frequently. I have a couple of patients that have to come in every six months because of periodontal disease, and the owners cannot keep up with it with brushing alone.

What is a professional dental cleaning like for a dog?

The night before anesthesia, we have the pet owner pull the food away from the dog at midnight so that they have a fast. They come into the hospital between seven-thirty and eight, and we check the patient in. They're given a calming medication, a pre-anesthetic medication before the procedure, and then they also have an IV catheter placed. They're put under general anesthesia to get a thorough dental evaluation.

Do you recommend anesthetic-free dentals?

Absolutely not. It's a very good question. We cannot fully evaluate a dog's mouth without anesthesia. For one, there's a dental anesthesia probe that we do the x-rays with that costs about $6,000. The dog cannot bite down on those probes or they'll get ruined. As you can see, the x-rays allow us to evaluate the roots and the pulp chamber, and then we also look in the bone to see if there's any evidence of bone loss that might indicate infection and the need to have that tooth removed.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (480) 614-9500, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.