Tag Archives: dog teeth

Odd little stuff you didn’t know about dogs’ teeth

February is “National Pet Dental Health Month.” So go brush your dog’s teeth. Nuff said.

Okay, we’re lying. We have lots more to say about dogs’ teeth – but just because we came across some really weird stuff that turned out to be interesting. If you need help getting your dog to let you brush his teeth, we’ve written about it before – here. If your dog has stinky breath, brush her teeth and stop feeding her fish-based food. That last bit is the voice of experience. Torque is much more welcome to cuddle since we switched his food!

Lots and lots of them

A bulldog, running with its mouth open and the dogs teeth showing

First amazing dogs’ teeth fact: they have way more than we do! Adult dogs have 42 teeth. Adult people have 32 – including wisdom teeth. And those dog teeth are classic carnivore – the fronts are for tearing (which is why it hurts so much when they grab your hand instead of the toy) and the side/back ones are for gripping and gnawing. There is no such thing as an indestructible toy!

That huge one on the side is the “carnassial tooth. Its special shape and tooth surface is designed to help shear, crush and hold. This is why you see dogs grasp chew toys with the side of their mouth, chomping feverishly. This is also why you have to replace so many chew toys.” according to Pet Health Network.

Baby teeth

Apparently there’s a myth that gets passed around that dogs’ teeth are replaced when they lose them. Like sharks! But it’s not so! 

Dogs do have “puppy” or “milk” teeth, which they start losing at about 14 to 16 weeks. The dogs’ permanent teeth come in over the course of a couple of months. But that’s all they get. If a dog loses an adult tooth, they’re out of luck. Just like us. 

And, contrary to another myth, you can’t tell a dog’s age by his teeth. You can tell whether the dog’s adult teeth have come in. You may also be able to approximate age, based on how worn the teeth are, but a heavy chewer may have worn down their teeth at a young age. While an older dog who doesn’t love chew toys may not show much wear.

Other oddities

Dogs don’t usually get cavities. They have a different mouth chemistry and bacteria, which apparently makes them relatively immune from decay. 

The bite strength of a dog is almost twice that of a person. Humans average bite force is around 162 pounds per square inch. Dogs average bite force? 269 pounds per square inch. Unless you encounter a Rottweiler, which holds the record at 328 pounds per square inch. Luckily, the Rotties we know are sweethearts!

Size makes a difference

Small dogs are prone to different dental problems than big dogs. 

Big dogs are more likely to fracture teeth, which can lead to infection and tooth loss.

Small dogs are more prone to building up plaque, and are more likely to lose teeth because of gum disease. Toy dogs, in particular, may be born with imperfect dentition. We have personal experience with this – our Brussels Griffon Tango only has about a dozen teeth. But he still has all the ones he came with. Because we brush them. Go brush your dog’s teeth

Brush your dog’s teeth – shine those pearly whites!

Should you brush your dog’s teeth?

Well, of course you should brush your dog’s teeth. And, equally “of course” most people don’t. 

There is a school of thought that says it’s not necessary, especially among people who give their dogs raw, natural bones to chew on. Those people say the “gnawing” action cleans the dog’s teeth just fine and no further brushing is necessary. If it works for you and your dog, you may not need to brush your dog’s teeth.

An ounce of prevention

In our experience, dogs are a lot like people. Some go their whole lives with no dental issues. Others are constantly at the dentist’s office for something. 

It’s a fact that small dogs are more prone to dental issues than big dogs. We don’t know why that’s the case, but we do know we have to deal with it. And our answer has always been to brush our dogs’ teeth at least once once every week.

Veterinary advice

Veterinarians actually advise brushing your dog’s teeth a few times every week. If your household is anything like ours, that’s just not going to happen. Sorry, Dr. Jan, but we just can’t.

Simply put, we’re afraid every time our dogs have to undergo anesthesia. If we can avoid it by taking five minutes every week to tend to their teeth – we’re going to do it as the lesser of evils. It also gives us a chance to take a look at what’s going on in their mouths, if there are any sore spots, or growths, just take a look and see that everything’s okay.

Do they like it? No. Not one of them enjoys it. Do they let us? Yes, because we’ve established the routine since the day we brought each one home. And we’ve developed a method that keeps it short, manageable, and less unpleasant for everyone. 

Dogs love routine

It’s true that dogs like knowing what to expect. They like having schedules and routines. Like when the clocks change from Daylight Savings Time – you know your dog is going to get you up an hour earlier. The “Spring Ahead” part is fine – dogs will never object to getting fed an hour earlier. But the “Fall Back” is a pain – we never get the extra hour of sleep we were anticipating. Because the dogs’ internal clocks are telling them it’s time to get up. 

So on Sunday mornings, we lay out our supplies for our weekly “ablutions.” And each dog, in turn, gets his nails trimmed, teeth brushed, face washed, and ears cleaned. They know what’s coming, so they don’t mind too much.

Favorite flavor

Over the years we’ve tried all kinds of different dog toothpastes with all kinds of flavors; beef, peanut butter, liver (that one was not pleasant for anyone!), even vanilla. The dogs hated all of them. And as we read ingredient lists that were getting longer and less pronounceable, we started making our own toothpaste. Our great-grandparents would recognize our recipe – just coconut oil, baking soda, and peppermint oil. It’s by far our dogs’ favorite toothpaste, and ours, too!

The equipment list is short – gauze (or a washcloth), toothpaste, and water. That’s it. We just dampen the cloth, grab a little paste from the jar, and rub it on our dogs’ teeth. Brushing your dog’s teeth doesn’t need to take long or be complicated. It just has to get done.

Positive results

Since we started the tooth-brushing routine over a decade ago, not one of our dogs has required a professional tooth cleaning. No anesthesia, no added expenses. And our dogs have retained all of their teeth into their senior years.

Showing Boston Terrier's teeth
Booker needs a little flossing, but at six years old, his teeth are looking good.

Of course every dog is different. Just like people, dogs’ mouth chemistry differs among individuals. Some are more prone to plaque buildup than others. Just among our own dogs, their saliva varies. Booker (Boston Terrier) has the most slimy, thick spit you’ve ever experienced. Simon, also a Boston, has much more rinse-able saliva. Simon also has retained baby teeth at this point, which we keep an eye on. Our weekly exam lets us know if anything’s changing. 

Keep it simple

If you’re tempted to start brushing your dog’s teeth, as with all dog training, don’t go for a home run the first time at bat. Show the dog the cloth. Let him/her sniff the toothpaste. Even lick it if she wants to. Introduce everything gradually and, chances are, your dog will come to tolerate, if not enjoy, the attention. 

Dog Tips Tuesday – Take time for teeth

Dogs love routine. Every dog owner knows it – it’s one of the reasons we’re not fond of “spring ahead” and “fall back” Daylight Savings Time switches. Dogs don’t read clocks, but they know what time they’re supposed to get up in the morning and it takes a while for them to readjust their schedules.

If you make regular dental care part of your dog’s routine, he will adjust in time and just accept it as part of life. She may never love it – but keeping your dog’s teeth clean has many health benefits.

Torque's showing off his pearly white teeth.

Torque’s showing off his pearly white teeth.

The first, of course is a breath of fresh air. Dogs really shouldn’t have bad breath, and if they do, the first place to look is their teeth. (If good dental care doesn’t help, have a veterinarian explore the issue further.) Bad teeth have also been linked to heart disease in dogs. Not to mention avoiding the pain (and expense) of extractions.

So – how do you get your dog to accept regular tooth brushing? If you’ve never attempted it, take baby steps. When your dog is relaxed and you’re both just “hanging out,” dampen a washcloth, lift your dog’s upper “lip” and just rub a tooth gently. If she accepts this attention, try to rub a few more teeth. Then let it go until the next time.

If your dog has never had his teeth brushed, you may find some bleeding from his gums when you first get started. It should lessen as you build your brushing routine, but if it continues, give your veterinarian a call.

As your dog learns to accept a finger and cloth in his mouth, you can add time and more specialized tools to the routine – a finger toothbrush and canine toothpaste. Your dog may never love it, but he will adjust.

Some dog foods claim dental health properties. We’ve never seen a dog chew its food, every dog we know is a “gulper.” Gnawing on raw bones and chew toys may help keep your dog’s teeth in good shape. If this is the route you choose, be sure to check your dog’s mouth and teeth regularly.

Hope was brushing Teddy’s teeth when she noticed a large lump on his gum. Lumps on our dogs are always frightening, but catching them early can mean a better outcome. Fortunately, Teddy’s lump proved to be just an overgrowth of gum tissue. Because Hope noticed it, it could be removed before causing Teddy any major discomfort or problems with eating.

Change your dog’s routine – make time to take care of teeth.

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