Early adulthood is a good time to have the teeth exam ined to make sure that the permanent ones are straight, not crowded too closely together, free from disease, and not worn by gnawing. The amount of actual tooth decay among dogs is negligible. However, the dog’s teeth cannot repair themselves; once the enamel is worn off, they remain damaged and may need treatment or extraction.
Guard against tartar, that hard brownish deposit on one or more teeth. The least of its harm is its unsightly color; the real danger is that it menaces the life of the tooth to which it clings. It is most serious as it pushes into the gum, breaking the membrane which is the tooth’s main brace. With this sup port gone, the tooth may loosen and fall out. The condition may not be painful. On the other hand, if food particles work down into gum cavities and decompose to cause abscesses, there will be considerable suffering. When tartar is noticed, take the dog to the veterinarian, who can scrape the teeth expertly before any damage has been done. It is also helpful to feed some dry meal or biscuits that require chewing.
Bones and hard substances are, in a manner of speaking, the dog’s toothbrush. Not that they actually clean the teeth; they perform an even better service than that. They stimulate the blood supply as they rub over the gums. Therefore, the gnawing of bones and the chewing of coarse, hard food helps keep the entire mouth healthy. That is why as the puppy grows we gradually discontinue very moist foods and instead feed drier, more crumbly mixtures. And then, when the second teeth are in, we give hard baked biscuits occasionally.
All through the dog’s life you may keep his teeth clean by wiping them regularly with a damp cloth dipped in salt or baking soda, or with a canine toothpaste. A gentle rotating motion will stimulate the gums as well as actually clean the teeth. The dog accustomed to this attention from puppyhood does not object. He rather enjoys being fussed over.
Do not expect the dog to announce dental troubles by crying. He suffers in silence, while rubbing the affected side of his jaw along the floor or perhaps pawing it. He eats gin gerly, mouthing his food with his lips rather than with his teeth. He may drool, too. All of which may indicate a de cayed, broken, or otherwise sensitive tooth, or possibly a piece of something wedged between two teeth. At any rate, it means an uncomfortable mouth requiring professional aid.