Your dog’s oral health is also an indicator of the general health of your dog. Many diseases in other parts of the body manifest themselves by certain dental or oral symptoms. On the other hand, sometimes dental diseases can cause other more serious problems and affect vital organs in the body.
Dogs do not generally have cavities like humans. Dental disease mostly affects their gums. Gum diseases like gingivitis are primarily responsible for tooth decay, abscesses and serious dental ailments like periodontitis.
Healthy dog gums are firm. They are just like the dog’s skin - pink, black or spotted. Dog teeth are initially white in color and tend to darken as the dog gets older. Initially, 23 rootless baby teeth emerge. These are pushed out when permanent teeth (usually 42, but much depends upon the breed of the dog) start to develop.
It is important to check a puppy’s mouth to see if the permanent teeth are coming in properly. Put your hand over the muzzle and lift up the jaw and see whether there is any crowding of baby teeth. In rare cases, a baby tooth may be retained. This can cause a bad bite, which is abnormal spatial relation of the teeth when the jaws are closed, known as malocclusion. Malocclusion may lead to problems with eating and tooth decay at a later date, and needs to be addressed.
For good gum care, ensure that the gums are firm and that there is no bad dog breath. Canine bad breath, unless it is during teeth shedding, signifies gum diseases like gingivitis. Excessive accumulation of tartar is a major cause of gum disease. If you see any soft or hard white, yellow or brown matter on the gums, make sure that you address the issue before it is too late. The best way of preventing this problem is to brush off the plaque that forms. This will ensure that the plaque does not accumulate or convert into hard tartar.
Never allow free eating, as it takes the control out of your hands. Ensure that you feed a diet that does not stick to your dog’s gums. Food particles that remain stuck between the roots of teeth and gum-line decay over time, and are a welcome invitation for bacteria. Hard, dry food is therefore the best option.
There are many other signs of good health besides gums. While your veterinarian will routinely check all those, it is incumbent on you to insist upon a complete dental checkup as well. At home, grooming should include daily teeth cleaning. Regular cleaning of teeth and gums ensures the overall health of your dog and a natural cure for dog breath. It will also let you know of any undetected disease in other part of the body that may have eluded detection.