As with people, it’s important to keep your dog’s teeth and gums clean and healthy throughout its life. Gum disease is very common in dogs over two or three years old, especially with smaller breeds, since the bone that holds the teeth in place is thinner, so that the gums are more vulnerable to problems.
A number of factors affect how vulnerable your dog is to gum disease, including its age and general health, its diet, its breed and genetics, how its teeth are aligned, and its grooming habits. Older dogs are more likley to be affected.
Periodontitis is the most common gum problem in dogs. It is caused by a combination of food debris, plaque, and bacteria, which together cover the teeth and gums with a white film. The bacteria eventually works its way under the teeth into the gums, and eats away at the bones the hold the teeth in place.
Another very common gum disease (in dogs as in humans) is gingivitis. The gums become inflamed, and without proper treatment, the teeth can eventually be lost. The best way to prevent these gum problems is to brush your dog’s teeth, every day if possible. Besides promoting a healthy set of canine teeth and gums, the smell of your dog’s breath will also be greatly improved. Feeding your dog dry food, and occasional dog biscuits can help with teeth cleaning, although neither method is as effective as regular brushing. Recently, a vaccine has been developed that provides an additional weapon to help prevent gum and tooth problems from occurring in the first place.
The bacteria from gum disease can easily spread to other vital parts of your dog’s body, so it’s not just the teeth that are involved here — it’s your dog’s overall health. In both dogs and humans, a clear link has been established between gum disease and heart disease, so it’s vital that your dog (and you) pay attention to preventing gum disease before it happens. Your vet can perform a professional and thorough mouth cleaning on your dog. Flouride will be applied in some cases, as well as x-rays if deemed necessary to look for other potential problem spots.
To summarize: good dental health is as important to dogs as it is to humans. Gum disease and tooth decay can be prevented through annual visits to your vet for a checkup and oral exam and cleaning, and regular tooth brushing at home.