When To Care For A Dog’s Mouth
Many things can cause a dog to suffer discomfort and disease in their mouth, including lodged foreign objects, abscesses, broken teeth, jaw injuries, lacerations, electrical or chemical burns, infections, string or rubber bands around the tongue base, tumors and periodontal (gum) disease. Changes in eating behavior and excessive drooling are two of the most common signs of mouth problems. Gum disease is a huge problem in domestic dogs. Gingivitis is a reversible inflammatory condition of gums caused by bacterial build-up; periodontitis is an irreversible continuation of gingivitis that affects the deeper mouth structures supporting the teeth.
How to Care for a Dog’s Mouth
A dog’s mouth is framed by the lips and cheeks on the front and sides, the hard and soft palates on top, and the tongue and muscles of the mouth’s floor on the bottom. The nasal passages enter the back of the mouth through the pharynx, which continues as the larynx, or throat. Most mouth problems in dogs are found by looking at the lips, gums, teeth, tongue or throat. It’s not always easy to get a dog to hold its mouth open while you look around. One way to open the mouth is to slip a thumb behind the canine tooth and press up on the roof of the mouth, then press down on the lower jaw with the other thumb. Another way is to gently squeeze the upper muzzle with a thumb and forefinger behind the whiskers and separate the top and bottom jaws.
Tools and Solutions
Authorities recommend brushing a dog’s teeth and gums up to 3 times a week, using a brush and toothpaste made for dogs. Dogs adjust to this process fairly readily, especially if they are started when young. Most canine toothpastes are flavored with poultry or mint to make them palatable. Some dogs tolerate homemade toothpastes of baking soda and water, although this isn’t good for dogs on salt-restricted diets. Toothpastes made for people shouldn’t be used. Soft nylon doggy toothbrushes are available at pet-supply stores. A finger-wrapped washcloth or piece of gauze can be effective to clean teeth. Canine finger toothbrushes are also on the market.
Oral Care Techniques
Most periodontal disease affects the outer side of the upper teeth and gums of dogs. It isn’t necessary to brush the inner areas. Brushing a dog’s teeth and gums isn’t difficult, especially if started early. Lift the lips to expose the outside tooth surfaces and rub the gums and teeth in a gentle circular motion, paying particular attention to where the gums and teeth meet. Use an appropriate cleaning tool and pet toothpaste. Bleeding may happen at first, but should stop after several weeks of regular brushing.
Here are some tips that may help maintain a dog’s oral health:
- Feed mainly a dry kibble diet, at least twice a day. Kibble is abrasive and helps prevent tarter and plaque buildup when it is chewed. It also toughens up the gums.
- Offer a hard dog biscuit or two daily.
- Don’t give dogs toys or bones that are harder than their teeth or inclined to splinter. Many chew treats, including high-impact rubber balls and synthetic bones, are available over-the-counter, including products specifically designed to promote oral health.
Professional dental care is the best way to prevent gum disease and tooth loss. Many veterinarians offer teeth cleaning, scaling and polishing services, which are done under general anesthesia. This gives the doctor an excellent opportunity to examine the entire mouth and throat. Routine home mouth care can reduce the frequency of required professional attention.