Dental Problems in Dogs

8 Different Types of Dental Problems in Dogs

The 8 different types of dental problems in dogs include plaque buildup, gum disease, tooth decay (caries), broken teeth, tooth abscess, malocclusion, halitosis, and oral tumors. Dental problems in dogs are diseases that affect the gums and teeth. Dog dental problems are common in dogs over 3 years of age.

Dog teeth issues cause bad breath, bleeding gums, difficulty chewing, and oral infections, which is the answer to the question, “What is dental disease in dogs?” Dental problems in dogs are prevalent because dogs use their mouths for play, exploration, prehension, and chewing. 

Proper dental care, such as adequate brushing, diet, and regular check-ups, prevents dental issues in dogs. 

1. Plaque Buildup

Plaque buildup is excess dental plaque on the dog’s teeth. Dental plaque is a sticky coating that microbes use to form microcolonies. Plaque is caused by food in the teeth and normal oral bacteria. 

Plaque buildup causes gum issues in dogs if untreated. The dog develops periodontal disease due to excessive bacterial growth and plaque mineralization or tartar. Tartar is a hard, dark yellow substance covering the teeth that is tougher than plaque.

The diagnosis of plaque buildup is based on a thorough physical exam. Plaque is managed with regular dental hygiene, such as brushing the teeth with dog-specific toothpaste, specialized dog food, or dental chews approved by The Veterinary Oral Health Council. Heavy tartar is removed through dental prophylactic procedures performed under general anesthesia. 

2. Gum Disease

Gum disease causes swelling and irritation of the gingiva (gingivitis). Gingivitis is gum inflammation caused by bacterial plaque, and the ligaments and bones are unaffected. Gingivitis causes marked redness or purple discoloration of the gum line, which begins at the edges.

Gum disease in dogs causes eating difficulties, reduced appetite, and emaciation when left untreated. Gum disease in dogs is typically caused by plaque buildup due to poor oral hygiene, leading to tartar accumulation. The condition progresses into teeth issues in dogs, increasing the risk of bone loss and tooth infection. The treatment for gum disease is teeth cleaning by a veterinarian while the dog is under general anesthesia. 

3. Tooth Decay (Caries)

Tooth decay (caries) or dental cavities are decay in tooth structure. Tooth decay is caused by bacteria that digest fermentable carbohydrates from food and produce acids that diffuse into the enamel, leading to tooth destruction. Caries are dark and discolored with a foul odor and soft dentin. The cavities are often painful, causing eating difficulties. 

The diagnosis of tooth decay in dogs is done by a thorough oral exam by a veterinary professional. Dental radiographs are taken to identify the stages of tooth decay, between mild, moderate, and severe, based on enamel, dentin, and pulp exposure. Treatment of tooth decay depends on the stage. Early-stage tooth decay is treated with enamel removal and subsequent filling. Severe tooth decay requires a root canal procedure. 

4. Broken Teeth

Broken teeth are often caused by traumatic injuries such as falling, chewing, vehicle accidents, or fighting with other dogs. Broken teeth are seen through ocular jaw inspection, demonstrating a visible deformity in the tooth structure. The signs of broken teeth in dogs are painful mastication, refusal to eat, swelling, and bleeding from the mouth. The fractured teeth are often painful and are predisposed to infection and tooth decay. 

A thorough oral exam and radiography are needed to diagnose broken teeth. The treatment of broken teeth depends on the extent of the fracture. Teeth damage extending to the pulp and root canal requires extraction.

5. Tooth Abscess

A tooth abscess is a pocket of infected tissue around the tooth's root. Tooth abscesses are caused by bacteria entering a chip or fracture making its way down to the tooth's root, causing painful infection.

The signs of tooth abscess are inflamed swellings at the gumline that are doughy, sore, and painful to the touch, and occasionally, pus leaks. Tooth abscess symptoms include face or jaw swelling, the dog refusing to eat, fever, and lethargy. 

A tooth abscess is diagnosed through a thorough oral exam, physical examination, and radiography. The treatment of tooth abscesses in dogs is surgical removal. Infected teeth unsuitable for removal are treated with antibiotics, pain relievers, and anti-inflammatory medication until extraction becomes viable. 

6. Malocclusion

Malocclusion is abnormal teeth alignment. There are two kinds of malocclusion in dogs – skeletal and dental malocclusion. Skeletal malocclusion is an abnormality in jaw length that causes the malalignment. Dental malocclusion is when the jaw is normal, but teeth are malpositioned. Skeletal malocclusion occurs in dogs with brachygnathism or prognathism, meaning one jaw is longer or shorter than the other. Skeletal malocclusions are seen in dogs that have crossbites and canine abnormalities. The diagnosis of malocclusion is made by a thorough oral exam, physical examination, and radiography. The treatment options for malocclusion are tooth extraction, crown reduction, and orthopedic procedures. 

7. Halitosis (Bad Breath)

Halitosis (bad breath) is a secondary symptom of a primary dental issue. Bad breath in dogs is a potential sign of systemic or dental disease. Common causes of halitosis are tooth abscesses, cavities, plaque buildup, and gingivitis. The bacteria inside the mouth produce substances that degrade the teeth and gums, causing a foul odor. Other causes of halitosis are kidney disease, bleeding disorders, and oral tumors. Halitosis is treated by correcting the underlying disease. Correct dental hygiene, including tooth brushing and correct nutrition, helps reduce the intensity and recurrence of halitosis in dogs. 

8. Oral Tumors

Oral tumors in dogs are neoplasia that occur inside the oral cavity, which includes the muzzle, gums, cheeks, palate, and tongue. The most obvious signs of oral tumors in dogs are abnormal lumps and bumps anywhere in the oral cavity. Large tumors cause difficulty in mastication and bleeding inside the mouth. Oral tumors are diagnosed through laboratory analysis of biopsy samples. The treatment depends on the type of tumor. Treatments for oral tumors include surgical resection, radiation, chemotherapy, antibiotics, NSAIDs, and steroids. 

What are Dental Problems in Dogs?

Dental problems in dogs are conditions that affect a dog's mouth structure. Dental problems are the most common health issues in dogs. Periodontal disease is the most common dental problem affecting the oral anatomy in dogs. Periodontal disease begins with gingivitis or gum inflammation and moves deeper into the tooth housing, destroying the bone when left untreated.  The tooth becomes loose and falls out. 80-90% of dogs over the age of 3 have some component of periodontal disease”, according to the Cornell Richard P. Riney Canine Health Center.  

Dental problems are commonly caused by accumulated bacteria and inflammation due to poor dental hygiene. Mechanical injury to the jaw causes tooth fractures, predisposing the tooth to painful abscesses. Dogs with dental problems have difficulty chewing, eating, and swallowing, which affects appetite, nutrition, and behavior. Prolonged dental infections increase the risk of a secondary disease of the major organ systems. 

Are Certain Dog Breeds More Prone to Dental Issues?

Yes, there are certain dog breeds more prone to dental issues. Toy and miniature breeds such as chihuahuas and yorkies are predisposed to dental disease since their jaws are small and teeth crowding is an issue. Brachycephalic breeds such as pugs, shih tzus, and bulldogs are commonly affected with malocclusion issues. Overbite is prevalent in collies. The long muzzle of the dachshund predisposes the breed to periodontal pockets where bacteria thrive and cause further infection. Large breeds like labradors are playful and powerful dogs that are prone to getting tooth fractures. 

How do Genetics Affect Dental Health in Dogs?

Genetics affect dental health in dogs by increasing the risk of tooth developmental disorders. These disorders result in structural weakness of the enamel, such as Amelogenesis Imperfecta (AI). Certain breeds of dogs, such as collies, pugs, dachshunds, and bulldogs, are prone to dental issues, so it is beneficial for these breeds to be checked regularly for early detection. 

Can Poor Nutrition Lead to Dental Problems in Dogs?

Yes, poor nutrition can lead to dental problems in dogs. Poor nutrition contributes to enamel hypomineralization and enamel hypoplasia as it affects enamel formation or amelogenesis of the teeth. Dietary texture and make-up provide mechanical cleansing, and maintain a healthy environment inside of the mouth. Dogs with dental problems benefit from prescription diets approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) that effectively interrupt plaque formation. 

Can Bone Cancer be Related to Dental Problem Signs?

Yes, bone cancer can be related to dental problem signs. Bone cancers are malignant neoplasms in the bone that are able to spread to different parts of the body. Cancers such as osteosarcomas appear anywhere on the dog’s body, including the oral cavity. Osteosarcoma in dogs are aggressive and progressive tumors that cause dental problems. The disease is diagnosed through biopsy analysis and radiographic imaging and early detection is necessary for prompt treatment. 

Why do Dogs Have Dental Problems?

Dogs have dental problems because of poor dental hygiene, mechanical injury, poor nutrition, or breed predispositions. Dogs use their mouths frequently for chewing, eating, playing, and exploring. Correct dental hygiene, including regular tooth brushing, reduces the likelihood of dental infections and tooth damage.

Dogs show symptoms of dental disease when there is significant damage, and owners without a dental routine fail to notice until there are obvious symptoms like drooling, head shaking, and reluctance to eat. Dog breeds predisposed to dental problems require regular check-ups to assess oral health and prevent disease. 

How can dental problems in dogs affect their overall health?

Dental problems in dogs affect their overall health by directly affecting their willingness to eat. Gum and tooth issues in dogs are painful and uncomfortable, leading to changes in behavior such as inactivity, irritability, and lack of appetite. Dental problems are able to escalate into systemic disease when left untreated. Oral bacteria from dental disease is able to enter the bloodstream and travel to other distant areas. Important major organs such as the lungs and heart are able to be affected by dental infections that are potentially fatal in some cases. 

What are the signs that a dog has a dental problem?

The signs that a dog has a dental problem are listed below.

  • Bad breath: Plaque buildup on the teeth leads to heavy loads of bacteria that cause enzymatic activity and bad breath. The bacteria thrive on the plaque and reproduce to form high bacterial loads. The plaque buildup leads to tartar formation, further contributing to foul-smelling breath.
  • Gum inflammation: Gum inflammation or gingivitis is one of the most common signs of dental problems in dogs. The edge of the gems develops a red or purplish color. Gingivitis is the early stage of periodontal disease and is a hallmark dental problem.
  • Swollen mouth: Oral lesions and neoplasms are visible lumps and bumps in the mouth and are signs of dental problems in dogs. Tooth abscesses cause facial swelling where the pocket of infected tissue is located. The swelling is often painful and warm to the touch. 
  • Discolored teeth: Teeth discoloration is a sign of tartar or cavities. Tartar is dark yellowish mineralized plaque that forms over the teeth. It is hard to remove and requires professional cleaning. Cavities are decayed teeth with a black coloration, signaling the death of the tooth and is one of the signs of dental problems in dogs.  
  • Loosened teeth: Loose teeth in dogs with adult teeth are a sign of dental problems in dogs. Teeth are well-attached to the jaw bones. Teeth that are loose with accompanying signs of inflammation, tartar, and pain are likely loosened due to dental diseases such as tooth resorption or death of tooth pulp. 

How can I Tell if My Dog Has Teeth Problems?

You can tell if your dog has teeth problems if it loses its appetite, has malaligned teeth, drools excessively, paws at its mouth, or is lethargic. 

  • Decreased appetite: Teeth problems cause pain and discomfort when a dog with teeth problems attempts to chew. The dog becomes reluctant to eat due to associated pain. Poor appetite leads to inadequate nutrition, emaciation, and eventual wasting.
  • Malaligned teeth: Teeth malocclusions occur when part or the entire upper and lower teeth do not meet. The improper alignment makes mastication and prehension difficult. Some dogs with malaligned teeth grind as they chew because of abnormal rubbing between teeth. 
  • Excessive drooling: Hypersalivation is a secondary symptom of teeth problems. The dog increases saliva production to help combat infection. Teeth problems such as cavities and abscesses stimulate salivary production in response to pain. 
  • Pawing at the mouth: Pawing at the face or mouth is compensatory to relieve pain. Dogs with teeth problems try to reach the affected area, which signals owners to check for abnormalities. 
  • Decreased energy levels: Teeth problems are uncomfortable and painful conditions that progress over time. The dog has a decreased willingness to play along with appetite and possibly exhibits aggressive behavior.

What are the long-term Effects of Dental Problems in Dogs?

The long-term effects of dental problems in dogs are listed below.

  • Permanent bone loss: Untreated dental problems increase the risk of destroying tooth anatomy, causing teeth to fall out. The affected teeth are no longer able to form strong attachments to the jaw, leading to permanent tooth loss. 
  • Systemic infection: A long-term effect of dental problems in dogs is systemic  or dental infections with high bacterial loads. The infection travels from the mouth into the bloodstream, which carries the bacteria to vital organs such as the lungs and heart, increasing the risk of fatal infections. 
  • Pulp necrosis: Pulp necrosis is when the pulp inside the tooth is exposed, affecting blood flow and nerve stimulation. Pulp necrosis is a long term effect if not treated or diagnosed, leading to bone resorption and eventual loss of the teeth. 

When Should I Seek Veterinary Attention for My Dog's Oral Problems?

You should seek veterinary attention for your dog’s oral problems immediately after seeing signs. Common symptoms of oral problems in dogs are bad breath, gingivitis, and lack of appetite. Dogs do not show signs until the oral problem has progressed significantly, so vigilance is important. Broken teeth, cavities, and abscesses require professional dental care from a veterinarian. 

How can CBD Soft Chews Help Treat Dental Problems in Dogs

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