If possible, get your puppy accustomed to having his teeth cleaned on a regular basis at home. Gently rub his teeth with a soft cloth or a child’s soft toothbrush dipped in a solution of baking soda and water. Do not use toothpaste formulated for humans. Because pets swallow rather than spit out the preparation, this can cause stomach upset.
Deciduous (temporary) or “milk” teeth begin to appear when a puppy is about four weeks of age, and are lost gradually between 14 and 30 weeks of age. During this time, puppies may eat slightly less and chew more. Hard rubber or rawhide toys made especially for dogs are a good investment to help prevent household damage during this time.
Occasionally, a puppy will retain some deciduous teeth after his permanent teeth have appeared. This may damage the soft tissues of the mouth and may even accelerate wear of permanent teeth. A veterinarian should be consulted to determine whether or not removal is necessary.
A cracked or broken tooth can be painful if the nerve tissue is exposed; if it becomes infected, there is the danger of the infection spreading through the bloodstream. Prompt veterinary attention is recommended.
Here are some of the common warning signs of dental problems in dogs:
- Loss of appetite
- Red, swollen and bleeding gums
- Blood in the saliva
- Yellow-brown tartar at the gum line
- Broken teeth
- Foul breath
However, the most common dental problems dogs experience is buildup from plaque and calculus. If left unchecked, plaque and calculus buildup can eventually cause inflammation of both the gums (gingivitis) and the membrane lining of the tooth socket (periodontitis). Without proper treatment, the teeth may become infected and fall out and the resulting infection may spread to other parts of the body such as the kidneys or valves of the heart.
Dental problems can be minimized or even prevented through regular cleaning and scaling under anesthesia, done by a veterinarian.
Additionally, dry, crunchy foods can be helpful in keeping teeth clean. As the dog chews, particles from the dry food scrape against the teeth, acting like a toothbrush to help remove plaque.