A dog’s teeth are vital to his general health, and like you, your dog only has one set of adult teeth, so please take good care of them. Follow a dental health plan that will protect your dog’s teeth.

Oral health will help maintain your dog’s overall health. Three important recommendations for oral health are: take your dog to your veterinarian for a dental assessment; follow a dental hygiene program (brushing and providing a healthy diet; and take your dog to the vet for dental exams.

Let’s look more closely at dental development in dogs. Puppies are born without teeth. Within three to 12 weeks, a set or 28 baby teeth develop. These baby teeth will fall out eventually. Then, between four and six months, your puppy will typically have a full set of 42 permanent adult teeth. This is a good time to visit your veterinarian for a dental checkup.

Just as with humans, small particles of food and saliva combine to create plaque. This then turns into tartar, which can cause serious health problems for your dog, such as gingivitis, abscesses, periodontal disease, tooth loss, and eventually bone loss. The signs of periodontal disease are bad breath, red or bleeding gums, difficulty chewing, tooth loss, and excessive drooling.

Now, what can you do to care for your dog’s teeth? To begin, daily brushing is a great way to remove plaque.

Do not use human toothpaste, as it can make your dog ill and may even poison him. There are a variety of toothpastes specific for dogs and come in different flavors.

Using a finger-brush is a gentle way to keep your dog’s teeth clean. Make it a pleasant experience, offering lots of praise throughout the process and a reward afterward — a walk or a tooth friendly treat.

Visits to your veterinarian and having him conduct a dental cleaning is the only way to remove plaque. In addition, diet is a vital factor in maintaining dental health. A dry, crunchy kibble helps remove some plaque. In fact, there are some dog foods that include certain ingredients that can help block tartar from forming.

If your dog requires dental surgery, this is done under general anesthesia and involves scraping each tooth individually. At the same time, rotten teeth are removed. Typically, antibiotics are prescribed to address the presence of bacteria.

Oral hygiene is essential to your dog’s health. Signs of dental problems are not always easy to recognize, so be proactive!

Angie Lewis is president of Alaska Animal Advocates.

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