Dog Dental Disease – Importance, Signs & How It Develops

Vet inspecting a dogs teeth


It is only recently that it has been realized how important healthy gums and teeth are to the overall health of a dog.


Find out more about dog dental problems and treatments.


Dental Disease Causes Disease Elsewhere In Dogs

Dental disease, or periodontal disease, if not treated will affect other parts of the dog including the heart, kidneys and liver.

Dental disease has become the #1 disease of dogs. It is estimated that 75% of dogs that are examined by their vet have some level of gum disease, and many also have abscesses and broken teeth. See the section on Dog Dental Care to find out how to keep your dog’s teeth and gums healthy.

Signs of Dog Dental Problems

Dental disease is very painful.

A dog will be very often become more irritable and sometimes even snappish due to the pain. Once a dog has dental disease, without treatment it will get worse, so if your dog has signs of dental disease get your dog to the vet for treatment. The sooner you get treatment, the less the damage.

Common signs of canine dental problems include

  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Build up of yellow brown deposits on teeth by gums
  • Red, swollen or bleeding gums, particularly where teeth and gum meet
  • Broken or loose teeth
  • Trouble eating
  • Obvious pain when biting on hard foods
  • Increased production of saliva


Gum disease is very common, and is also called periodontal disease. (Periodontal means around teeth.)

Dogs rarely get cavities (caries), but many dogs will get a cracked or broken tooth at some time in their lives.

What Happens as a Dog Develops Periodontal Disease?

The progression of periodontal disease is similar in dogs and humans.

Plaque builds up

When teeth are not clean, plaque starts to develop. Plaque is composed of food particles and bacteria. Though plaque can form anywhere on a tooth, it tends to build up alone the gum line, where the teeth enter the gum. Plaque is soft and can easily be removed.

Tartar (Calculus) Forms

If plaque is allowed to build up and not removed, the minerals in saliva and some foods will react with the plaque and form a hard coating called tartar, or calculus. Tartar starts to form quickly. In only 5 days plaque starts to become tartar.

Tartar is hard and sticks quite strongly to teeth, so it is much harder to dislodge from teeth than plaque. Brushing does not remove tartar.

Tartar Causes Irritated Gums

The tartar that has formed at the gum line is very irritating to gums. Irritation of gums is known as gingivitis. The irritated gums become red and swollen, and will then start to bleed.

Once the gums are irritated tartar will start to build up below the gum line on the affected teeth, and cause even more irritation.

Periodontal Disease then Develops

As the tartar builds up below the gum line it starts to separate the gums and the teeth. This forms pockets in between the gum and teeth. These pockets trap more food particles and promote more bacterial growth.

At this point, a dog is considered to have periodontal disease.

Consequences of periodontal disease

Remember that periodontal disease is painful for your dog.

Periodontal disease can lead to abscesses, loose teeth and bone loss in the jaw. The pockets that form between the tooth and gum will often become infected. Abscesses will develop as infected pockets become filled with pus.

The loss of bone results in the teeth that are not held as firmly. This loss of bone combined with the roots of teeth becoming infected, results in teeth will become even looser. Teeth, then, will start to fall out.

How Periodontal Disease Can Lead To Other Diseases

Infection that develops in the pockets between the teeth and gums can impact the whole of the dog. Bacteria can get in the blood stream and affect other organs in the body.

One of the most commonly impacted organs by periodontal disease is the heart, where the valves can become infected, which results in endocarditis (inflammation of the inner lining of the heart). If untreated this is a life-threatening disease, since it can cause heart failure, stroke or other complications.

Liver and kidney infection and damage can occur due to periodontal disease.

Next Page – Dog Dental Disease – Susceptibility & Treatment
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See also – Dog Dental Care – How To Take Care Of Your Dog’s Teeth