Just like humans, dogs can have plaque buildup. If plaque isn't removed regularly it can harden into tartar and cause a range of dental health problems. Today, our Fremont vets explain how plaque and tartar form in a dog's mouth and how to prevent it.
Plaque & Tartar In Dogs
Plaque is a sticky substance comprised of bacteria, saliva, and food particles, that forms several hours after a dog eats and accumulates on their teeth. If it isn't removed (e.g. brushed) away after 24 hours, this plaque starts to harden by combining with the salts found in saliva. As plaque continues to harden and mineralize, it turns into tartar. Tartar (a.k.a. calculus) is a porous, rough substance that can form above and below a dog's gumline. Once plaque and tartar have hardened on your dog's teeth, only a veterinarian will be able to safely and properly remove it.
As tartar forms its rough surface, it gives bacteria places to hide and grow. This bacteria can cause a condition called gingivitis (early-stage gum disease). The symptoms of gingivitis include inflamed, painful, and bleeding gums. If gingivitis goes untreated, it can turn into periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is the most advanced stage of gum disease where the gums become even more painful, inflamed, and start to recede, which could eventually result in missing teeth.
Tartar and dental issues don't just affect your dog's mouth! Bacteria can spread throughout your pup's body by being absorbed into the bloodstream, having the potential to cause problems with other organs such as the kidneys and heart.
Preventing Plaque & Tartar In Dogs
These tips could help to prevent the formation of plaque and tartar in your dog's mouth:
Brush Your Dog's Teeth
Brushing your dog's teeth every day or at least weekly is one of the best ways to prevent plaque and tartar. If your dog isn't used to having their teeth brushed, you will have to introduce them to the process gradually. It's important to be patient, as it can take a while to build up to your dog allowing you to brush all of their teeth at once.
Use toothpaste specifically created for dogs. Begin by applying the toothpaste to your dog's teeth and gums with your finger. Once your dog is used to the toothpaste and having their mouth touched, you can gradually introduce the toothbrush. You can do this by moving at your dog's pace and slowly increasing the amount of time you use the toothbrush. Don't start trying to brush all of their teeth until they are used to the toothbrush.
Don't forget to brush over your dog's gumline because this is where plaque and tartar can build up.
Dental Treats & Dog Food
Dental treats can be a great addition to your dog's oral hygiene care. Many of these products can remove food debris and loosen plaque on your dog's teeth as they chew.
There are brands of dog food available that are designed to help clean your dog's teeth and reduce the build of plaque and tartar.
Professional Dental Exams & Cleanings At The Vet
Just like humans need to see the dentist regularly for routine exams and cleanings, dogs also have to see their vet for this purpose. We recommend bringing your dog to the vet for routine dental appointments once a year.
During these visits, your vet will thoroughly clean your dog's teeth and gums, clearing away any plaque or tartar that may be forming. Even if you clean your dog's mouth regularly at home, your vet will be able to clean the places you can't reach. As stated earlier, your veterinarian is also the only person who will be able to remove tartar on your dog's teeth once it has formed.
In addition to this, your vet will conduct a comprehensive examination of your dog's teeth to make sure your pup's mouth is healthy. If your veterinarian does detect an issue, they can start treatment before it gets worse.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.