There is no doubt that in many cases good and bad teeth are genetic. Some kinds of dogs, particularly small breeds, lose many teeth by the time they are two years old. Others have had healthy teeth all their lives. Frequently the owners of a two-year-old show dog with loose teeth that need to be extracted will not permit the procedure to be done until the dog has finished its show championship.
Tartar. The principal problem with teeth is the tartar, or plaque, that builds up on them. It is theorized that some dogs have saliva that encourages this tartar buildup. It is not unusual to find thick crusts of tartar larger than the teeth. In some dogs, this may be removed in the veterinarian’s office without an anesthetic. Other dogs will not permit such treatment and must be given a short-acting anesthetic to have their teeth cleaned. In any event, the insides of the teeth may be cleaned only after anesthesia has been administered.
Some biscuits do help to clean a dog’s teeth but only minimally so. Better is a raw beef rib bone into which the teeth sink – but bones may not be for your dog. Chewing the tags of meat and cartilage from beef soup bone will also help, but many dogs eat mushy food all their lives and have beautiful teeth with no tartar or gum disease.
Problems in Puppy Teeth. If a puppy has a prolonged fever before the permanent teeth erupt, the permanent teeth may have pits or eroded-appearing areas of the enamel which remain for life. These teeth used to be called “distemper teeth” as so many puppies had that disease with its prolonged fever.
When any one of the tetracyclines, which are antibiotics, is administered to a puppy under three months of age, the drug affects the developing permanent teeth, which are stained yellow when they appear. Such teeth appear to fluoresce when exposed to a black light. The yellow stain remains for the life of the dog arid and is of no consequence except for the unsightliness of jaundiced-looking teeth. We see puppies that do not lose their puppy teeth on a schedule. The most common is the failure of the sharp canines to fall out when the permanent canines come in. If uncorrected, the front upper teeth may slowly change their positions to their detriment later in life and the permanent canines are not only displaced but tend to develop gum problems. When puppies break their deciduous teeth before the permanent ones come in, the broken root appears to dissolve and drop out or be absorbed. Breaking off these persistent canines and they had the same fate.
Broken and Loose Teeth. Broken teeth do not appear to trouble dogs but they should be removed to prevent infection. Some dogs carry stories around in play and may wear their front teeth off and even their gums. Worn teeth are usually no problem. A gray tooth has lost its blood supply from injury and as long as the gum around it is healthy it should not be removed.
When teeth are loose they should be extracted. This brings up the question, “How will the dog eat?” The answer is that dogs don’t need teeth to eat the commercial foods you feed them, and any dog with loose teeth doesn’t use that tooth for chewing anyway. A loose tooth is painful to use.
After the extraction of all of his dog’s teeth, one of our clients brought in his toothless pet and fed it hard dog biscuits in our presence. The dog crunched the biscuits with its gums and ate the pieces.
Abscessed Roots. From middle age on, dogs can have root abscesses, most of which drain into the mouth, but two teeth present problems that may seem unrelated. When an upper canine tooth has an abscessed root, the abscess may open into the nasal passage. This usually causes excess sneezing with blood at times.
The other problem tooth is the upper fourth premolar, which, when one root is abscessed, commonly necroses the bone over it and forms as welling under the eye on the same side. Untreated, the abscess ruptures, drains, and heals only to repeat the performance until the to this extracted.
Anesthesia. All too often owners of very old dogs decline dental work requiring anesthesia, believing the old dog will die under anesthesia. An old dog can and does take anesthesia well and certainly a mouth full of abscessed teeth will not prolong ado’s life. Nor with its horrible breath will it endear itself to members of the family.
See more: How to Tell if your Dog is Sick
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