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Looking after your K9's teeth - a gritty problem!

Updated on July 1, 2012
Cloudy contemplating on a bone
Cloudy contemplating on a bone

Yet again, giving my dog’s teeth a clean is not a want-to-do activity I would put on my To-Do or Linoit lists. Yet, the proper canine oral care needs to be practiced on a daily practice to prevent the build up of dental disease and a whole host of oral problems. Dogs are subject to what I term ‘dog breath’ - really foul odor from the mouth which comes about if one is neglectful.

Why must you clean your dog’s teeth?

Cleaning a dog’s teeth is a necessary, daily activity that is set up to prevent the build up of dental and gum disorders that are the cause of bad breath in dogs. Like ourselves, a dog’s mouth must be cleaned in order to prevent a build up of plaque and tartar that can cause a dog’s breath to really assail your nose. Gum diseases such as gingivitis and peridontal disease can also develop, which contribute to a really foul canine mouth.

Types of oral diseases in dogs

Halitosis or Bad Breath

The most obvious sign of things going awry in a dog’s mouth would be the onset of halitosis or bad breath in your dog. If you sense that your dog’s breath is worse than usual, it is a sign of a more serious problem - your dog could be suffering from gum disease or have a build up of tartar that needs removing. You will find that there is a chain effect where oral diseases are concerned:

plaque-----tartar-----gingivitis----peridontal disease------other oral problems-halitosis

And the main causes of halitosis are:

Plaque in dogs
Plaque in dogs


Oral problems in dogs usually start with plaque. Plaque is the accumulation of saliva and bits of food that get stuck to the surfaces of the mouth, which are difficult to remove because they are usually tiny and are easily hidden in dental crevices. When ignored, these bits of food begin to harden, - and the dog therefore has bad breath.

Plaque is a common occurrence in the human mouth too - we remove it with Listerine and a host of other dental mouth washes. It should not be surprising that our furry friends suffer from it too!

tartar in dogs
tartar in dogs


This is an advanced form of plaque - when it hardens and mineralizes. A hard substances then begins to form on the teeth,especially around the gum line, and causes the dreaded halitosis.

mild gingivitis
mild gingivitis
advanced gingivitis
advanced gingivitis
peridontal disease
peridontal disease

Gum Disease


Gingivitis occurs when a dog’s gums become inflamed. This usually means one thing- an infection and a trip to the vet! Inflammation of the gums is caused mostly by plaque - and that forms when we do not clean

Peridontal disease

Peridontal disease usually develops as a more advanced form of gingivitis - this is when pockets of bacteria start to form on the gums, resulting in infection that can spread to the rest of the body.

Gingivitis and peridontal disease are more prevalent in smaller dogs - blame it on nature - their teeth are often too large for their mouths!

broken teeth in dogs
broken teeth in dogs
missing teeth in dogs
missing teeth in dogs

Other oral problems

Broken Teeth

Your furry friend may lose a few teeth as a result of the decay that comes as a result of poor oral care, just as much as we do. Halitosis would, of course, be an accompanying problem.

Loose or missing teeth

Like ourselves, dogs will also lose their teeth if they are not cared for properly - they become dislodged, loose and eventually fall off.


Plaque and tartar are usually treated by scaling - veterinarians use a number of hand instruments and ultrasonic devices to remove plaque and tartar build up. Regular brushing, of course, reduces plaque, tartar and the build up of gum disease significantly.

The scaling process, of course, can be a little costly - but can be avoided with regular care and attention to the teeth. I had neglected my dog’s teeth for a period - and he developed a bad case of tartar. Expensive scaling had to be done, combined with tooth polishing, to ensure that his teeth were in proper order.

Check your dog's breath
Check your dog's breath

The The necessary steps to good canine oral care

Test your dog’s breath.

Again, this is not something you would “like” on Facebook or put up as a Pinterest Pin.A dog’s mouth, especially one with halitosis, can have a really offensive odor that can put one off dental care altogether. If your dog’s breath is particularly bad, it is a definite sign of a more serious oral problem.It should be checked every day; if, after brushing, the problem persists, do consult your veterinarian.

Examine your dog's teeth. Remember to pull the gums backward to access the back teeth.
Examine your dog's teeth. Remember to pull the gums backward to access the back teeth.

Examine your dog’s gums and teeth.

This is a process that needs to be repeated at least once a week. With your dog facing you, check his teeth for plaque or tartar. Examine the gum line thoroughly for any bits of food lodged within. Your dog’s teeth should be clean, with no brownish tartar. Look out for any signs of decay, loose, or missing teeth.

It is recommended that you pull your dog’s gums gently back until the teeth at the back are exposed. The side tooth that touches the cheek usually has the most tartar. When brushing a dog’s teeth, most people neglect the teeth that are right at the back. These are the most prone to tartar build up.

Know your dog's mouth disorders

Do know your mouth disorders - recognizing them is the first step to prevention and cure. If you are not certain of a problem but sense it, do consult your veterinarian. other than the basic Plaque, Tartar, Gingivitis and Peridontal Disease, there are a few other disorders to be aware of - they are signs of more serious problems.

A specially designed canine toothbrush with soft bristles. For both small and big dogs!
A specially designed canine toothbrush with soft bristles. For both small and big dogs!
dental spray to remove enzymes.
dental spray to remove enzymes.

Get a canine tooth brushing kit!

Canine tooth brushing kits, like all pet care products, tend to be a little more expensive than the ones we use. These, however, are targeted at dogs and would improve their oral hygiene.

Enzymatic toothpaste for dogs is a little more expensive, but serves its purpose in thoroughly cleaning a dog’s teeth. Accompany that with a toothbrush specially designed for dogs - those with softer bristles. Some can be as convenient as a piece of gauze worn over the finger.

A veterinary examination might tell you if your dog’s gums are inflamed - mild gingivitis can be a little harder to detect. If your dog does suffer from mild gingivitis, brushing his teeth too hard may be rather painful.

Combine these with a good dental spray for a thorough cleaning of the mouth - enzymatic dental spray helps to remove enzymes that cause plaque.

If your dog has not had his teeth brushed before, get him slowly used to it - rub his muzzle, incisors and teeth before introducing him to the brush. Many owners make the mistake of just jumping into things with a toothbrush. Assure your dog throughout - makes him more confident!

The brushing technique

Yes, there is the correct way to brush a dog’s teeth. Use the brush or a gauze shaped finger to clean the teeth in circular motions. This ensures that the teeth are not brushed too hard and with thoroughness. Do note - this is the way we should be brushing our own teeth!

Cloudy about to pick up her bone for chewing.
Cloudy about to pick up her bone for chewing.
Cloudy enjoying her brushing session.
Cloudy enjoying her brushing session.

Let your dog chew artificial bones.

Letting your dog do a little chewing allows it to exercise its teeth and gums, and removes plaque - a very effective way to start getting your dog used to the idea of brushing. if your canine already has this habit, get him to chew on a brush with toothpaste - this means that he can do it himself!

And she finishes, finally!
And she finishes, finally!

Fun facts about a dog’s mouth

Is a dog’s mouth cleaner than a humans?

Interestingly enough, some folks believe that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s. I once had a neighbor tell me to let my pomeranian lick the scrape wound I hand on my hand - she insisted that the saliva was medicinal in nature.

The truth is, though many communicable diseases like rabies are not transferable to humans, a dog uses his mouth in the same way we use our hands - so the build up of bacteria within is rather high.

A dog’s tongue helps to reduce its body temperature.

Dogs use the tongue to reduce its body temperature. As a dog pants, air passes over the tongue and is cooled - as as saliva evaporates, the cooling is enhanced.

Most dogs develop a level of mouth disorders by age 3.

Most of us, myself included, are a little guilty of neglecting a dog’s oral hygiene - hence most of them develop a certain level of mouth disorder by age 3.

Facial swelling is usually a result of tooth infection.

A swollen cheek could be an infection of the 4th premolar.

Sneezing can also be a result of a tooth infection.

Sneezing can also be the result of an infection of the upper canine. Do take note of this if your dog sneezes persistently.

Do look after your dog’s mouth - proper oral care from the onset will help to prevent and solve a myriad of problems!

Two bichons demonstrate how to brush their teeth themselves.


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    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Aww, Cloudy says thanks in her own doggy way, Mary. I think you can start by massaging Baby's gums to get her used to it gradually. That's what I do for Cloudy, because she's an extremely restless doggy who won't stand for teeth cleaning either. Put a bit of toothpaste on your fingers and gently let her get used to the smell and rub it in gradually. She'll get used to it soon, because Schnauzers are generally very obliging dogs. Give it a try!!

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      6 years ago from Florida

      Cloudy is a beautiful little dog. Reminds me of my Schnauzer, Baby. I have to confess: I have never brushed Baby's teeth, guess I'm a bad Mama. I know I should. I should have started when she was young, now I don't think she will stand for it!

      I voted this Hub UP, etc. I will share in all the right places, and may I link this Hub into mine: "How to keep your dog healthy and safe"?

      Ooops, there are NO share buttons on this page. I 'll try to follow up on that.

    • josh3418 profile image

      Joshua Zerbini 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Haha ok sounds good! :)

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Yep Josh, unfortunately this isn't such a fun thing to do,but it'll help the doggies. Say hi to all four for me and give them a woof on my behalf from Singapore!

    • josh3418 profile image

      Joshua Zerbini 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Another great hub for my doggies :) Thanks Michelle!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Bill! Don't like doing this either...but just like is, they need it!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It certainly is not something I enjoy doing but, as you point out, it is oh, so important. Very informative hub with great information.


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