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Caring For Your Dog's Teeth

*It is perfectly normal for young dogs to lose their deciduous, or “baby,” teeth much as human children do. Canines have 28 deciduous teeth and 42 permanent teeth.

The small teeth in the front of a dog’s mouth are the incisors; there are six on the top and six on the bottom. Canines, the sharp “fanglike” teeth, total four; two on top (one to each side of the set of incisors) and two on the bottom. Located to the side of the canine teeth, the 12 deciduous premolars will be replaced by 16 permanent teeth. Molars are the teeth located farthest back in the mouth; they are part of the permanent set of teeth only and there are ten of them.

A dog´s health can suffer if their teeth or gums are giving them trouble. Dental exercise (raw beef bones, chew bars etc.), a balanced diet and teeth cleaning with a canine toothbrush and paste are helpful in keeping your dog´s teeth healthy. An oral check, on a regular basis is worthwhile. Lift the lips well back and inspect the teeth and gums. Any sign of tartar deposits on teeth, discoloured or sensitive teeth or inflamed gums should be checked out. Your dog may need their teeth cleaned or extractions performed if a tooth is badly infected.

Dental hygiene is often ignored in the dog. The outcome? Consider what your teeth might look and feel like after months, years or even a lifetime of neglect. They would be a wreck, and you would be miserable. Yes, canine teeth also need frequent brushing to prevent gum disease and early tooth loss, as well as just plain foul breath.

Despite the popular conception, dog biscuits and bones do not keep the teeth clean and healthy. Although some veterinarians feel that gnawing on these hard substances has benefit, it does not prevent the build-up of plaque and tartar which, unless removed, can lead to gum inflammation, tooth root abscesses and other oral problems. That’s the simple truth.

The teeth should be brushed at least once or twice a week, more often if possible. As with grooming, acclimation is best started early in the puppy’s life.

To make a toothbrush, fold a square gauze pad loosely around the tip of your index finger. Or you can use a small, soft child’s toothbrush or buy a special toothbrush from a veterinarian. Dip the toothbrush or gauze pad in a toothpaste designed for dogs (not for humans, since human formulations can upset the dog’s stomach) or into a paste made of baking soda and water. Next, vigorously scrub the outside surfaces of the teeth, especially the rear teeth. With the gauze pad, you may also try to gently massage the gums. It is not necessary to brush the interior surfaces of the teeth.

Your veterinarian should check your dog’s mouth for tooth or gum disease during annual checkups. The most common problem, tartar accumulation, resembles yellow or brown cement deposits along the gum line or in the crevices of the teeth. Despite your best efforts, a proper dental cleaning under general anaesthesia may need to be performed periodically in a veterinarian’s office.