Understanding Dog Dental Disease

Understanding Dog Dental Disease

| February 18, 2022

Written by Dr. Colleen Fisher at Petline Insurance 

Even though dogs can’t get cavities, they are still prone to teeth crowding, bite disorders, and tartar build-up. Dental disease can be serious for dogs and affect their overall health. 

Knowing the specifics about which dental diseases are the most likely to affect your dog can help you provide your fur friend with the best care possible. Here’s a breakdown of different types of dental diseases and the dog breeds most likely prone to developing them. 

Different types of dental diseases

Periodontal disease

All dogs are susceptible to dental disease. Bacteria in the mouth leads to the development of plaque and tartar. Over time, this process results in infection and deep pockets around the teeth caused by bone loss. As the disease progresses, teeth loosen, and pain becomes chronic. Toy breeds, short-nosed breeds, terriers, and Dachshunds are more susceptible to periodontal disease at an earlier age than other breeds. 

Deciduous teeth

Like people, dogs develop baby teeth that fall out and are replaced with their adult teeth. Toy breeds and short-nosed breeds may take longer to shed their baby teeth. In some cases, the baby teeth don’t fall out and your veterinarian may need to extract them to prevent damage to the adult teeth as they erupt. 

Base narrow canine (fang) teeth

Generally lower canine (fang) teeth sit just in front of the adult upper teeth when the mouth is closed. This is referred to as a scissor bite. Standard poodles, Collies, and German Shepherds may face challenges as puppies when their adult canine teeth on the bottom jaw erupt and sit just inside the upper teeth. These puppies experience pain because their lower canines dig into the upper palate.  

Teeth crowding

All dogs have 42 teeth. Toy breeds and short-nosed breeds are prone to rotation of their adult teeth and malocclusions (misalignment of bottom and top teeth). If their teeth don’t line up the right way, these dogs can be prone to chronic trauma and dental disease as food and bacteria collect in these abnormal spaces. A different type of malocclusion, known as lance canines, occurs in Shetland Sheepdogs where their upper canines rotate forward toward the front of the mouth. 

Gingival Hyperplasia

Boxers, bulldog breeds, and occasionally Cocker Spaniels, may develop an abnormal inflammatory response to the bacteria in their mouths. These dogs develop excessive gum tissue around their teeth and occasionally it completely buries their teeth. Unfortunately, this is not a protective mechanism, and tooth loss may still occur. 

Assertive chewers

Labrador and Golden Retrievers, Belgian Malinois, and Pitbull-type breeds can be very enthusiastic about chewing on rawhides, bones, toys, rocks, and whatever else they find in your backyard. Aggressive chewing can lead to broken teeth and acute pain. How can you tell if a chew is too hard for your dog? Slap the toy against your knee. If it hurts you, or doesn’t bend, it is too tough for your dog to chew. 

At home preventative measures

You are the front line to protecting your dog’s dental health – no matter what their breed. You can start today by checking your dog’s mouth and brushing their teeth daily. This will allow you to find problems as they arise.  

During your annual wellness exams, your veterinarian will check your dog’s teeth to ensure that adult teeth are settling properly and advise whether it’s time for teeth cleaning and comprehensive oral assessment. Prevention and prompt veterinary care will minimize the impact of dental disease and help maintain your dog’s oral and overall health. 

Pet insurance can help with the cost of vet visits 

All plans provide coverage for routine dental care. Learn what’s covered and get a free quote today