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.


Axel presented to Horizon Animal Hospital to have a dental cleaning. He was placed under anesthesia and full mouth radiographs were taken.  These radiographs which revealed significant bone loss around some of the teeth. These teeth needed extraction and he is feeling much better now!

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.

Dog Dental - FAQs

Dr. Sean Penn
Horizon Animal Hospital

What is the veterinarian looking for during a dog's dental oral exam?

During a dog's dental oral exam, we are looking for any fractures of teeth. We also conduct probing with instruments to see if there's any pocketing around teeth. Additionally, we evaluate if any teeth are loose and check for the presence of any tumors or other abnormalities in the mouth.

What does a healthy dog mouth look like?

A healthy dog's mouth should have white teeth, and its gums should be pink but not red. Moreover, it should be free of all masses.

What kind of dental and oral problems can dogs have?

Dogs can experience a variety of dental and oral problems, including broken teeth and the presence of masses in their mouth. Sometimes, the gingiva can overgrow and they can develop pocketed abscesses, which can lead to infection and very bad odor.

Why does my dog need x-rays?

X-rays help us to evaluate below the gum line, which is often where the disease process occurs. They allow us to check for bone loss and bad roots. Sometimes a tooth may have multiple roots and it may feel solid but there's actually a bad root, which would necessitate the removal of that tooth.

Are issues addressed during my dog's initial oral exam or do I need to schedule a follow-up appointment for this?

The initial oral exam, done without anesthesia, helps us determine if a dental cleaning under anesthesia is needed. So, a follow-up appointment would usually be required for this purpose.

Why would my dog need extractions?

Extractions are necessary if there are abscesses, if the tooth is fractured with exposure to the pulp cavity, or if there's bone loss involving one of the roots. Usually, a tooth needs to be extracted if there's more than 50% of bone loss.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (480) 614-9500, or you can email us at [email protected]. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can. Don't forget to follow us on social media Facebook, Instagram

Dog Dental - FAQs 2

Dr. Sean Penn
Horizon Animal Hospital

How do I know if my dog needs a dental exam?

Through routine evaluation by your veterinarian, they will evaluate the mouth and see if there's development of tartar or calculus on the teeth, redness to the gums, sometimes the teeth become mobile and loose, sometimes they can be broken. These are all things that lead us to believe that we probably need to get our dog's teeth cleaned.

How often does my dog need a dental exam?

Dental exams, depending on age, are usually done every 6 to 12 months. Younger dogs typically don't need dental cleanings yet, but the teeth should be evaluated for the need for a dental usually at least once a year.

How do I know if my dog's teeth are causing them pain?

A lot of times we don't know that dogs are experiencing pain due to their bad teeth. Appetite and eating are not typically indicators of dental pain. Bad breath can be a big sign.

Is there anything I can do to help my dog prepare for a dental appointment?

Keeping them healthy is crucial. The preparation will be outlined and described by the veterinarian depending on whether it's just an evaluation to look at the teeth or if we're actually planning on having the teeth cleaned that day.

Will my dog be getting dental x-rays?

Yes, all dogs get dental x-rays. It's an important part of evaluating the mouth because it allows us to see underneath the gum line and to look for things associated with periodontal disease such as bone loss.

How long does a dental cleaning appointment take?

A dental cleaning appointment involves coming in the morning usually between 7:30 and 8. The overall dental procedures last anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half, sometimes up to two hours. After the procedure, the patient needs to recover, so they're usually here for a good five or six hours.

If my dog needs extractions, will they be given pain medications?

We believe in full multimodal pain control with all of our dental patients. We usually give them some type of a narcotic pain medication and usually a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, unless there are certain medical conditions that prevent that. Pain medication is usually also given to be taken home for your dog.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (480) 614-9500, or you can email us at [email protected]. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can. Don't forget to follow us on social media Facebook, Instagram