The facts about dog dental decay
Dog dental decay (caries)
Most of us have experienced some form of dental decay and we know how unpleasant it is to have to sit in a dentist's chair and have our teeth filled. And most of us probably brush our teeth far more often than we brush our dogs teeth - yet Fido rarely needs to have a filling!
Why do dogs get less dental decay than humans?
Well, there is a very simple reason for this and it all comes down to the enormous differences in the way that humans and dogs:
- Eat their food and
- Digest refined carbohydrates
Also important is the difference in where the digestion of refined carbohydrates takes place.
Humans tend to chew their food and mix it with saliva before they swallow it. Human saliva contains something called "amylase". Amylase is responsible for:
- Converting carbohydrates to glucose
- Starting off the initial stages of human digestion in the mouth
During the "conversion of carbohydrates to glucose", acid is given off as a by-product. This acid has a profound effect on dissolving and eating away at the enamel and other tooth tissues of humans and it is the number one cause of dental decay in humans.
Dogs on the other hand, don't chew their food, and they don't have the digestive enzyme amylase in their saliva. Dogs gulp their food down and the digestion process of converting carbohydrates to glucose begins in their stomachs.
This superb mechanism is turned upside down, when owners unknowingly give their dogs food containing glucose/sugar, e.g. breakfast cereals, ice cream, cookies and cakes etc. Glucose has the same effect on dogs' teeth as human teeth. Therefore the more refined carbohydrates you feed your dog the greater its chances of getting dog dental decay.
Once dog dental decay used to be a rarity, but nowadays vets are diagnosing and treating it with increasing frequency.
Current research indicates that at least 5% of dogs presenting at veterinarian clinics have some degree of dental caries.
Signs and symptoms of dog dental decay, broken crowns and abscesses
The image below clearly indicates a carious lesion, where dental decay involves the enamel and dentine tissues of two premolar teeth.
Visual signs and symptoms of dog dental decay/caries are:
- Bad or foul breath, depending on the extent and severity of the decay
- Brownish discolouration of tooth enamel, particularly in pits and fissures on the biting surfaces of premolars and molars
- Discolouration of dentine, the tooth tissue underneath the enamel
- Missing or broken crowns
- Red, inflamed and pussy gums at the apex of the root of a tooth/teeth. This indicates dental decay has entered the pulp canal, and that the pulp has been infected by bacteria, which has progressed to the tooth/teeth becoming non vital and the forming of an abscess/abscesses
Treatment of dog dental decay/caries
However, to be on the safe side, your vet will want to make his final diagnosis on the age of your dog, what your dog's x-rays tell him, what he can see (as in the image below) and what he can feel with his dental probe.
Generally speaking, treatment options for your dog will be pretty similar to those offered to you by your dentist.
The following criteria will decide what sort of treatment you can expect to be offered for your pooch:
- For dog dental decay in tissues involving the enamel and or dentine your vet will cut a cavity and fill it with a composite material
- If the decay has progressed to the point where the pulp chamber is involved, your vet will give you the option of root canal therapy and restoration of the crown, or extraction. Root canal therapy is very expensive and sadly most people opt for extraction
- If the decay has gone all the way to where bacteria has taken over and an abscess has formed, then your vet will have no choice but to recommend extraction, followed up by a course of antibiotics
- Implants - once the gum has healed following an extraction, it is possible for dogs to have implants, however as with root canal therapy, implants are very expensive and not many people can afford to go down this route
Prevention of dog dental decay (caries)
Prevention, as always, is a much better and far cheaper option. Please take a moment to browse our comprehensive Dog Dental Care Product range. We stock Only Natural pet products and we have 96 items for you to make your choice from.
We also have a special segment on How to clean you dog's teeth.
The key to successfully keeping your pet free of dog dental decay is about on par with how you manage your own dental care:
- Make sure you refrain from feeding your dog refined carbohydrates, which contain sugar/glucose
- Have your vet check its teeth a couple of times a year
- Brush its teeth each and every day - and in particular if your pet has eaten soft or sticky foods that are likely to remain on their teeth and gums
- Use dental chews or treats as rewards, and make sure you have plenty of reasons to reward your dog each day