Dental health for your dog

Did you know that dental problems are the most commonly diagnosed health condition in all dogs over the age of 3? A recent study found that  80% of dogs had poor gum and teeth health.

Poor oral health is more prevalent in small breeds compared to large breeds and the incidence increases with age, so as your dog gets older it is important to keep an eye on their mouth.

How can you keep your dogs’ smile looking good?

We brush our teeth twice daily to prevent plaque building up, and if we are not cleaning our dogs’ teeth regularly they too will get a build up of plaque.

Brushing dogs’ teeth is the gold standard for maintaining good oral health and all dog owners should be encouraged to do so…

Brushing dogs’ teeth

You should introduce dental care at an early age and pick a time when your puppy is calm. Try and keep the experience as short and as positive as possible!

  • Start by lifting a lip, then rub the teeth with a finger wrapped in cloth (later introduce a soft toothbrush)
  • Make sure to use enzymatic toothpaste (not human toothpaste)
  • Concentrate on the outside of the teeth, as this is where plaque is more likely to accumulate
  • Focus on reaching under the gum line, where teeth and gums meet
  • Use only gentle pressure

Teeth and diet

A common perception by owners is that the crunching action of biting into a hard kibble should clean the teeth. Studies have shown that as a pet bites into a typical kibble it shatters and crumbles, which provides no mechanical cleaning.

In addition, many processed kibbles are high in simple carbohydrates which convert into sugars and can contribute to tooth decay.

The inclusion of certain types of fibre in the diet are thought to “exercise” the gums and clean teeth and research continues into the role of certain probiotics in promoting good oral health.

Remember – no diet, treat or supplement can be as effective as teeth brushing.

Deficiencies in the diet

Deficiencies in vitamins A, C, D, E and some of the B vitamins have been associated with gum disease. Diets complying with FEDIAF guidelines will have adequate quantities – but these could be deficient in homemade diets.

Dental disease in dogs


Plaque is an invisible slimy mixture of bacteria, food and saliva that sticks to the surface of the teeth and accumulates rapidly after teeth brushing.
The bacteria cause local inflammation in the gums, called Gingivitis, this can be seen as reddening of the gum. With more advanced Gingivitis the gums will bleed easily and become sore.
As an owner you may find that your dog’s breath is a bit smelly.


Left undisturbed, the plaque can form an alliance with the minerals in saliva and form Tartar, also known as calculus. This can often be seen on dogs’ teeth as hard yellow/brown accumulations.


If plaque and tartar are not removed, gum inflammation will develop and left untreated will progress to more severe disease.
When other supporting structures of the teeth become adversely affected this is termed periodontitis.
This irreversibly affects supporting structures of the teeth, including the boney socket and ligament that attaches the tooth to the bone. As the condition progresses there will be gum recession, root exposure and loose teeth, possibly with bone destruction.

Professional dental cleaning

Unlike plaque, tartar will not be removed by brushing alone and your vet may recommend that your dog has a professional dental cleaning procedure.
A general anaesthetic will be required to check all the teeth closely, extract any beyond repair and have all remaining teeth cleaned. Ultrasonic cleaners are used to remove the tartar from above and below the gum line. The teeth are polished to remove microscopic scratches.