Dental disease is common in dogs. In fact, about 80% of dogs develop at least a mild form of dental disease by the age of three. This disease happens when plaque made of food particles and bacteria stays on the teeth and hardens into tartar. Only a vet or veterinary dentist can tell you if your dog needs a cleaning. Your dog’s mouth may look healthy to you, but you may be missing some hidden tartar underneath the gum line or other issues. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), you need to see a vet asap if you see any of the following:
Bad breath, broken or loose teeth, retained baby teeth, discolored teeth, teeth covered in tartar, abnormal drooling or chewing, dropping food, reduced appetite, refusing to eat, oral pain, bleeding from the mouth, and swelling around the mouth.
While dental treats and brushing your dog’s teeth can help remove plaque, you still need to get your dog examined at least once a year to see if he or she needs a cleaning. While dental cleanings require anesthesia and are often expensive, they are worth not having to deal with your dog getting a worse form of dental disease or other problems that stem from the disease.
These problems include organ damage. When bacteria from plaque enters the bloodstream, it can spread to the heart, kidneys, and liver. I remember when I worked at a vet’s office, I saw a chihuahua who was on heart medication because her owner did not keep up with dental cleanings. The dog lived a long life, but she still could have done without the heart problems.
The AVMA also says that dental disease is not the only oral problem that dogs can have. They can have problems such as broken teeth and roots, abscesses or infected teeth, cysts or tumors in the mouth, misalignment of the teeth and bite, fractured jaw, and palate defects. The severity of any of these can be determined by your vet.
Dental cleanings in dogs are similar to those done on humans in that they involve removal of plaque and tartar along with teeth polishing. Unlike humans, they are put under anesthesia for safety reasons. Under anesthesia, vets can give them full dental exams, clean more thoroughly, and perform any necessary x-rays without stressing out the dog. They can also prevent the dog from swallowing anything by protecting the windpipe with an endotracheal tube.
Dental cleanings are a routine process that are frequently done by your vet. While pricey, they are an important component of dog care. Not only will they prevent worse problems, but they can make your dog’s breath easier for you to live with.
Sources: https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/pet-owners/petcare/pet-dental-care https://www.preventivevet.com/dogs/why-its-important-to-have-dental-cleanings-performed-under-anesthesia https://www.petmd.com/news/view/5-reasons-why-dog-dental-care-important-38003