The Importance of Dental Health

The Importance of Dental Health

Posted by Buddy on 2011-01-13 08:41:30

Brush, brush, brush your teeth
At least two times a day.
Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, cleaning,
Fighting tooth decay.

Floss, floss, floss your teeth
Gently around your gums.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Flossing can be fun.

Rinse, rinse, rinse your teeth.
Keep them clean and bright.
They’ll be healthy, they’ll be strong
If you treat them right.

Ok, so I don’t floss my teeth but wasn’t that a cute song? Anyway, you can probably guess what my next topic is…dental care. Regardless of what you humans might think, going to the dentist isn’t any more fun for us than it is for you. I guess the upside is that we can chew bones and treats to get our teeth sparkling white….I don’t think society would take too well to humans doing the same.

According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, 80% of dogs have periodontal disease by the age of 3! Yikes, this is serious! So how can you prevent this from happening to your dog? I’m glad you asked! Here are some important things to know and think about.

Dogs rarely get cavities because cavities are caused by high sugar intake and dog don’t usually have sugar in their diet. However, dogs do get gingivitis and periodontal disease which is caused by bacteria and plague that attaches to gum tissue. Gingivitis is the first stage of periodontal disease. This is when bacteria and saliva form plaque that sticks to teeth and causes gum irritation, swelling and infection. This is treatable. If gingivitis is not treated it will form into full blown periodontal disease which is not treatable. If you do not treat periodontal disease your dog could end up with irreversible bone loss and tooth damage. Also, bacteria and infection in the mouth may spread through the bloodstream to cause various organ diseases.

Get this boy a dental cleaning, stat!

So how do you know if your dog is suffering from either of these? Early signs are redness or bleeding gums, trouble eating and bad breath. You can also inspect teeth for a yellow-brown crust. If there is only a small amount then you have time to start an at home treatment, if the teeth are heavily crusted then you should consult your vet about a dental cleaning.

It is very important that you get annual veterinary exams, not only for your dogs overall heath but for their teeth health as well. Just like humans see the Dentist every 6 months to a year, dogs should too. All your vet has to do is a quick exam of the teeth to see if things are looking ok or if they recommend a dental cleaning.

Unfortunately dental cleanings require your dog to go under regular anesthesia (which can be risky in older dogs, but your vet will inform you of the risks). At this time your vet will clean, polish and exam the teeth for decay. They will also extract any teeth that have major problems. Dental cleanings are not a fun process but they can become necessary if too much tarter starts to build up.

Some dogs are more likely to get gingivitis and periodontal disease as no two dogs are alike. Some dogs need cleanings once or twice a year where others can go much longer. It really depends on what type of teeth cleaning practices you are using at home.

Here are a few actions that you can take to help ensure your pet doesn’t require a dental cleaning or at least not too frequently. As always, there are many other products available so it pays to do your research.

Brush Their Teeth

Yes, dogs need their teeth brushed too! Just like humans, a regular armed type toothbrush can be used as well as finger ones and medical gauze. The most important thing is to use toothpaste made especially for dogs (most come in yummy, meaty flavors). Human toothpaste will make your dog very sick! Also, be sure to avoid products that have fluoride or sugars.

Starting the brushing process isn’t always easy. It is a learning process for humans and dogs and can take quite some time to get used to. One you have picked a type of toothbrush, let your dog get used to it, you don’t want them afraid of this new, strange object. Apply toothpaste and gently start to brush the teeth, all the while letting the dog lick the toothpaste and getting used to what you are doing. As the days go by, if your dog is ok with this new process, brush more and more teeth until you can get the entire mouth. You only need to brush the outside of the teeth; we don’t have tarter problems on the insides. Make sure that you heavily praise your dog after this activity so they will start looking forward to it. It is completely understandable if your dog never warms up to the idea of their teeth bring brushed. There are other good options available, so don’t give up!

Dental Food

If your dog eats wet food only, they have a higher chance of plaque buildup. Dogs that eat primarily a dry food diet tend to have cleaner teeth because the roughness of the dry food helps scrape plaque off teeth. There are many brands of food available that are specifically for cleaner teeth. Some are available at retail stores while others are prescription only. These foods are typically dry only and come in large chunks that help remove plaque.

CET Chews

This is a great way to trick your dog into having great teeth. You can offer them a treat and clean their teeth all in one! CET Chews are rawhide chews that have enzymes built into them that help stop plaque formation. The CET brand offers a variety of chews (as well as other dental items) that help support dental health.

Water Additives

This is a liquid, much like a mouth wash, that is added to the regular water bowl to help reduce bacteria in the mouth. This preventative measure comes highly recommended and is quite easy to use. Studies have shown that pet owners are more likely to use this way of cleaning their dogs teeth more than any other option available.


Greenies are another bone type treat for dogs. They are very hard, help remove plaque during chewing and offer fresh breath for dogs. This option does tend to be quite high in calories though so they are best used for dogs that are naturally thin.

Disclaimer: In 2006, the original Greenies (which were hard and solid) were found to be the cause of numerous deaths in dogs. The dogs were biting off chunks too large to pass through their intestinal system. Since this time a new formula, which is softer and dissolvable, has been released. For this reason my parents choose not to buy this product for me. That doesn’t mean it is bad or not effective, many people have and will continue to use them without issue.

Rawhide Treats

This is a huge category that can include pig ears, bones, hooves, etc. If your dog can sit down for hours and chew on a rawhide object then they can be quite useful in the removal of plaque. Unfortunately, many dogs eat them quickly like treats and truthfully rawhide products can be quite fatty. They should only be eaten in small amounts unless your dog has a skinny figure.

As you can see clean teeth are very important to the overall health of your dog. With so many options available it should be pretty easy for you to find a method that works best for you and your pet. My parents give me and my sister CET chews, rawhide bones and pig ears and this method seems to have worked great so far. My sister and I did have a routine dental cleaning about 3 years ago. Unfortunately, I had 3 teeth extracted due to defects and old age (not decay!), but Gabby had a regular cleaning. Since then our teeth have been doing great!

Remember, your pet can lead a longer, healthier life if they have clean teeth!

Note: As with all products, your dog may suffer side effects such as diarrhea and loss of appetite when using certain dental products. Please make sure that you find the right product (there are many brands available) for your dog so you don’t cause them any unnecessary health issues.

  • References
  • How to brush your dog’s teeth,
  • Bad Breath and Gum Disease,
  • Dental Care: What to include in a complete program,
  • AAHA Dental Care Guidelines,
  • Funny Cartoons and Pictures,
  • Photography Credit:
  • Pet Care Advice, Canine Kids, VirbacVet, Crazy Jokes.
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