You talked to a friend recently who mentioned her dog having some of their teeth removed. She said it was due to old age. Do all old dogs lose their teeth? Is there anything you can do to prevent it? We have answers for you. Read on.
Do old dogs lose their teeth?
Many older dogs do lose some of their teeth. As a matter of fact, well over 75% of dogs have periodontal disease (gum disease) by age 3. Gum disease starts when the alveolar bone around the teeth becomes infected from a buildup of plaque. However, if the question is, “Should old dogs lose their teeth?”, the answer is a big resounding — NO!
The answer is, “No”, because now, dogs can receive dental care just as we can. They can get their teeth cleaned and even have root canals and such.
Why is my old dog losing their teeth?
What is plaque anyway? Plaque is a substance made up of food particles and saliva. It is sticky and adheres to teeth. Bacteria contained in plaque cause gingivitis (an inflamed gum line).
Routine brushing removes plaque, however, if it is not removed, it will eventually harden into what’s called tartar (also known as calculus). It requires more than brushing to remove tartar, as it is like cement. An increase in tartar causes an increase in inflammation and bone loss, and when over half of the alveolar bone is lost, teeth will become loose and fall out by themselves.
What are the stages of periodontal disease?
Your veterinarian can determine the health of your dog’s teeth and gums with a quick exam and X-rays. Your dog’s periodontal disease will fall into one of the following categories.
While tartar is present, there is zero bone loss.
Tartar is present, as is gingivitis, but the alveolar bone is fully intact.
Tartar is present, as is mild to moderate gingivitis, and there is around one-quarter bone loss surrounding the teeth.
Tartar is present, as is moderate to severe gingivitis, and there is around one-quarter to one-half bone loss surrounding the teeth.
The existing tartar and gingivitis are severe, and there is visible bone loss of greater than one-half.
What are the signs of periodontal disease?
If you think your dog may have periodontal disease, you should cart them to the vet immediately. Look for signs like bad breath, swollen or bleeding gums, loss of appetite, difficulty chewing, pain upon chewing, chewing only on one side of the mouth, dropping food, drooling while eating, preferring soft foods, refusing to eat hard foods, pawing at the mouth, rubbing mouth against objects, loose teeth, or behavioral changes.
In later, more severe stages of gum disease, you will see signs like pus surrounding the teeth and gums, bumps or discolorations on gums, excessive tartar buildup surrounding the teeth, swelling of the mouth or face (due to tooth root abscesses [common with fractured teeth]), refusing to eat (due to oral sensitivity or pain), or substantial loss of bone, causing loose teeth or teeth falling out.
Can periodontal disease affect my dog’s health?
Dog owners tend not to think of it this seriously, but periodontal disease can have a huge impact on your dog’s physical health. Here are only a few examples.
Increased Risk of Heart Disease
When your dog’s gums bleed from gingivitis, the mouth’s bacteria can enter their bloodstream, migrating to their heart. It, then, attaches to their heart valves and causes inflammation or endocarditis. In the early stages, endocarditis can cause weight loss and lethargy, but as it progresses, signs of heart failure, such as difficulty breathing, coughing, exercise intolerance, or sudden collapse may present.
Gradual Weight Loss
With periodontal disease, eating often causes your dog pain. Because this is true, many dogs with gum disease suffer from weight loss over time.
Gradual Loss of Quality of Life
Inflammation is unhealthy for the body and mind, and gum disease causes chronic inflammation. Inflammation and infection may cause your dog to be in almost constant pain, causing them to lose interest in the things they once loved doing.
Can you prevent a dog from losing their teeth?
Oftentimes, you can prevent periodontal disease in your dog, and a great place to start is with a consistent brushing routine. Regular, daily brushing removes food particles, thus bacteria, before they can turn into plaque. Plaque and tartar form in only a few days, so be consistent.
Many dogs don’t like brushing at first. It’s a good idea to use a toothpaste and toothbrush that are designed for dogs. Human toothpastes can harm dogs if swallowed. There are other dental products for your dog, as well, like dental chews, oral hygiene rinses, water additives, and therapeutic veterinary diets. Look for the Veterinary Oral Health Council approved logo.
What to do if my dog is losing their teeth?
If your dog is starting to lose their teeth, take them to visit their vet as soon as possible. Their vet can examine their mouth and take some X-rays to determine what stage of periodontal disease they have and recommend a course of treatment.
Most commonly, a full dental cleaning is ordered with your dog under general anesthesia. Your vet will clean your dog’s teeth with a dental prophylaxis machine. Then, they will use an ultrasonic scaler to break up and remove plaque and tartar.
Next, they’ll use a polisher to smooth the surface of the teeth, so that bacteria will have a harder time adhering to them. Sometimes, a special gel is even inserted below the gum line. This helps prevent plaque from building up and forming tartar in the future. Often, this type of gel contains an antibiotic, which treats minor infections.
If, however, diseased teeth are found, a board-certified vet dentist can save fractured or diseased teeth in many instances. They can do procedures from a root canal to a crown restoration.