Open wide! Let’s take a look inside your dog’s mouth and learn more about their teeth and dental health.

How often do you look inside your dog’s mouth? It may not be your favorite activity, but it should be a regular one. Dogs’ dental health is closely tied to their overall health. So, it’s important to understand the physiology of your dog’s mouth and how to keep it healthy.

How many teeth do dogs have?

Puppies have 28 sharp primary, or deciduous, teeth, which fall out like human baby teeth. Also like human babies, puppies teethe and bite on things to relieve the discomfort of losing and growing larger teeth. After they lose their baby teeth, dogs’ permanent teeth come in. All adult dogs have 42 permanent teeth, including four types:

  • Canines – The four pointed fangs that help to hold and tear.
  • Incisors – The small front teeth that dogs use to nibble an itch or meat off a bone.
  • Molars – Like human teeth, molars are flat teeth in the back of the mouth used for chewing.
  • Premolars – These are the 16 teeth between the canines and molars that are also used for chewing and grinding.

What happens if dogs don’t have their teeth cleaned?

Bacteria builds up on teeth and forms a sticky film called plaque. If left to accumulate, plaque hardens to become tartar, which is difficult to remove and can lead to periodontal (gum) disease. This can progress to painful tooth decay, infection, and other health problems.

Close to 90% of dogs will have some form of periodontal disease by the age of 2.1

What are the risk factors that contribute to periodontal disease in dogs?

The biggest risk factor is not properly cleaning their teeth, of course. But certain dogs are more prone to dental disease. Risk factors include:

  • Age: The occurrence of periodontal disease increases with age.2 Older dogs simply have more time to accumulate tartar and plaque, especially if they aren’t cleaned regularly.
  • Size: Small and toy breed dogs tend to get periodontal disease more frequently than larger dogs because of their smaller mouths, shorter teeth roots, and weaker jaw bone density.

    Breed: Certain breeds are more susceptible to periodontal disease as well. For example, brachycephalic dogs, like bulldogs, pugs and boxers, tend to grow teeth in crooked, creating nooks and crannies that trap food and bacteria.

    Poor Nutrition: Carbohydrates in food provide sugars, which feed bacteria and increase acidity in the mouth leading to tooth decay. Unbalanced, low-quality diets can hinder the immune system as well.

How can I tell if my dog has dental disease?

An early sign of trouble is swollen gums, or gingivitis. It makes the mouth more sensitive and can cause bleeding from the gums, which you may notice on toys. Bad breath is another early warning sign. Once advanced into periodontal disease, signs include:

  • Yellow or brown teeth, especially near the gum line
  • Sensitivity or pain when eating, which you may notice as eating slower or favoring one side of the mouth
  • Weigh loss and/or loss of appetite
  • Irritability
  • More drool than usual
  • Receding gums
  • Loose or decaying teeth

How can I keep their teeth healthy?

Like humans, dogs’ teeth must be brushed regularly – daily is ideal – to remove plaque. Dogs should also have their teeth professionally cleaned at least once a year to remove hardened tartar, or at the recommendation of your veterinarian. 

A healthy, balanced diet with high protein, low carbohydrates, plus antioxidant-rich vitamins and minerals is key to overall wellness and immune system strength. Crunchy kibble and treats can also help scrape plaque off teeth, in addition to brushing.

What can I do to improve my dog’s breath?

Dog breath is notoriously bad. But it doesn’t have to be. As mentioned, foul-smelling breath is often a sign of poor dental health, so regular teeth cleanings should help improve it. Certain herbs, like mint and parsley, have been proven to help mask and reduce odor as well. Dogswell Dental Treats include both mint and parsley, plus antioxidant-packed coconut oil and seaweed meal, and real chicken for enticing flavor.

Caring for your dog’s teeth is part of caring for your dog. It’s essential for their health and comfort – and your nose!

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association Global Dental Guidelines. Journal of Small Animal Practice. Vol 61. July 2020. 
1 Fernandes 2012, Queck, et al. 2018, Stella et al. 2018
2. Hoffman & Gaengler 1996

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