Have you noticed a brown buildup on your dog’s teeth? This is plaque, a gummy substance that forms on the teeth within a few hours of eating. Since dogs can’t care effectively for their own dental health, it is important to prevent tartar buildup on dogs’ teeth.
According to VCA Hospitals, “Within 24 hours, plaque begins to mineralize by combining with salts that are present in the saliva. As the plaque continues to accumulate and harden, it eventually forms tartar. Tartar can cause dental problems such as periodontal (gum) disease if not controlled.”
Tartar is very harmful to your dog’s teeth – just as it is to ours. It is a breeding ground for bacteria, which grows and multiplies in your dog’s mouth. The more bacteria, the more at risk your dog is for gingivitis, which can lead to periodontal disease. Your dog could also form an abscess or lose his teeth.
And if that weren’t bad enough, bacteria from tartar can be absorbed into the bloodstream and reach the heart and kidneys.
Tartar build-up along the gumline pushes your dog’s gums away from the roots of the teeth, and as the gums recede, they expose the enamel-free, sensitive part of your dog’s teeth, which causes pain and discomfort.
How Can I Prevent Tartar Buildup on Dogs’ Teeth?
The best way to prevent tartar buildup is to regularly brush your dog’s teeth. Giving him a green tea supplement can also help. Green tea can prevent the build-up of bacteria leading to periodontal disease. It contains fluoride, which helps prevent glucosyltransferase, a disease that encourages the formation of plaque and bacteria.
If tartar has already built up, your dog’s teeth will need to be professionally cleaned and polished by your vet.
Petvets.com recommends the following ways to keep tartar at bay:
- Brush your dog’s teeth regularly – ideally once a day, but at least twice a week – using a toothpaste made especially for dogs. Don’t use human toothpaste or other oral hygiene products as they contain xylitol, a sugar substitute that is safe for humans but highly toxic to dogs.
- Put an oral rinse in your dog’s water. It will help reduce the bacteria in his mouth, resulting in improved breath. Just make sure the oral rinse is made specifically for dogs, since many rinses for people contain xylitol.
- Give your dog chew toys and dental treats that will help reduce or remove mild tartar build-up.
- Your dog’s teeth should get a prophylactic dental cleaning every 6 to 12 months, or at the first sign of tartar buildup. Regular dental cleaning is as important, and will prevent irreversible damage to the gums and roots.
- Because plaque and tartar begin forming in as little as six hours after your dog gets his teeth cleaned, a home dental-care program including regular tooth brushing is a must for your dog.
Can I Remove the Tartar Myself at Home?
No, because you can’t remove all of the harmful bacteria. Prairie View Animal Hospital states, “Dental disease occurs below the gum line. If you use your fingernail to remove the tartar from the tooth, you are not removing the disease below the gum line. In order to thoroughly help your pet, plaque and tartar must be removed from below the gum line during a dental cleaning.”
Will My Dog Need Anesthesia During the Teeth Cleaning?
For a thorough cleaning, your dog will need to be put under anesthesia. Before that happens, he will be given a blood test to make sure he is healthy enough to handle the anesthesia.
Putting your dog under allows the vet to place a tube into your dog’s windpipe to prevent any bacteria from entering his respiratory system. It also enables your vet to clean below the gumline and, most importantly, it keeps your dog pain-free during the dental cleaning.
The American Veterinary Dental Society (AVDS) states that an astounding 80 percent of dogs show signs of oral disease by age 3. Keep your dog – and your pocketbook – healthy by regularly brushing his teeth and giving him a green tea supplement to help stop dental problems before they start.
HOW TO articles are intended for informational purposes only. You should always consult with your veterinarian about any health issues affecting your dog.