Healthy Adult Dog Teeth How to Be Sure Your Dog's Teeth Are in Top Shape

Healthy Adult Dog Teeth
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Dogs' mouths aren't the most pleasant things, it's true. But how can you tell a healthy dog mouth from an unhealthy one? Take a look at how to spot healthy dog teeth here.

Want to make sure your adult dogโ€™s teeth are in tip-top shape? Thereโ€™s good reason: Periodontal disease, the most common illness in dogs, affects 85 percent of canines 5 years and older and is linked to loss of teeth, jaw fractures, and other serious issues, like heart, kidney, liver, and lung disease, according to the Animal Medical Center. Dental disease is also one of the most easily preventable health issues for dogs. Hereโ€™s how to get and keep healthy adult dog teeth for your dog.

checking Your Dog's Mouth

You can check your dogโ€™s teeth by gently holding their muzzle and pulling up their lips. Dogs with good oral hygiene typically have:

  • Clean teeth, free of any browning
  • No loose teeth
  • Healthy gums can be pink, black, or even spotted, but not white or red, and should be without any evidence of inflammation or bleeding
  • No excess drool


Signs of Dental Disease in Dogs

If you're concerned your pet may be suffering from tooth problems, be on the lookout for these symptoms of dental disease:

  • Bad breath: No dogโ€™s breath is sweet or appetizing--youโ€™ve see what they eat--but there shouldnโ€™t be a stench emanating from your dogโ€™s mouth. If there is, it could be halitosis.
  • Regularly using paws around the mouth area
  • Avoidance of hard food or dropping food as they try to eat
  • Gums that are red and inflamed
  • Browning of the teeth
  • Excessive drooling
  • Swelling under one eye--this can indicate a tooth root abscess

White gums are also a warning sign, but of anemia, shock, or hypothermia.

Steps to Healthy Teeth in Adult Dogs

Just one percent of pet parents brush their petโ€™s teeth*, which is, according to American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC), the โ€œsingle most effective means to maintain oral health between dental examinationsโ€ in pets. AVDC recommends daily brushing with toothpastes and toothbrushes made for pets. Find out how to brush your dog's teeth.

If thatโ€™s just not possible with your schedule, weekly brushing is still a good idea. Here are some other tips:

  • Try a dental diet. Some dog foods are formulated to improve dental health.
  • Consider rawhide and chew treats (particularly those with anti-tartar ingredients like Greenies), which, if chewed daily, can help promote dental health.
  • Offer your pet chew toys, which, if played with routinely over time, can also help.
  • Take your dog to the vet for checkups and cleanings.
  • Ask your vet about a dental sealant to prevent plaque and tartar buildup.

When Dental Disease Goes Unnoticed

According to the AVDC, โ€œmost pets with painful dental conditions do not show clinical signs that are obvious to the owner but this does not mean that they are not feeling pain.โ€ The reason? In nature, animals do not display signs of weakness, and domestic pets can retain this trait. Because dental pain can develop over time, and is more likely to affect middle-age and older pets, the symptoms may be mistaken for a natural slowdown or a development of a โ€œgrumpyโ€ demeanor related to age. The AVDC explains that, once treated, pets who have been living with dental pain can act years younger.

Keep on the lookout for signs of dental problems in your dog, and be sure to ask your vet about your dogโ€™s dental health at every checkup. Your dog should see a vet at least once a year, and twice a year once they become a senior.

*According to a report by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)

Common Dog Teeth Problems

Canine oral disease is largely preventable with a regular dental care regime. But if your dogโ€™s teeth go unattended, a number of problems can occur over time. Learn what dental diseases are common in dogs, and how to go about treating them here.


Bacteria sticks to your dogโ€™s teeth, creating biofilm that becomes plaque and eventually tartar. Buildup of this hardened bacteria above and below the gum line causes inflammation of your dogโ€™s gums. Signs of gingivitis include bleeding, redness, swollen gums, and bad breath. Gingivitis is reversible with regular teeth cleanings, but can cause serious health problems if it is not treated.


This severe stage of periodontal disease is a painful infection that occurs when bacteria flourishes under the gumline near the deeper structures that support the teeth. Signs of periodontitis include loose teeth, bad breath, tooth pain, sneezing, and nasal discharge. Periodontitis can result in tooth loss and spread infection to the rest of the body, damaging internal organs like the heart and liver. Treatment may include veterinary cleanings, removal of teeth, and antibiotics.

Proliferating gum disease

This condition is an overgrowth of the gums, in which they begin to cover up your dogโ€™s teeth. There are two types of proliferating gum disease that commonly affect dogs: hyperplasia and epulides. Symptoms of both include an increase in height and thickness of gums, bleeding, halitosis, excess drooling, and decreased appetite. Proliferating gum disease must be treated to avoid gum infection. Common treatments include antibiotics, and in some cases, surgery.


Bad doggie breath isnโ€™t a joking matter - it may be your first sign of serious dental health problems. Halitosis is caused by bacteria growth along the teeth and gum line. Check your dogโ€™s mouth for tartar and plaque buildup, usually seen as a brown or yellow substance on the teeth. A consistent tooth care regime, including regular brushing and dental cleanings by your vet, is effective in stopping halitosis.


Dental caries occur less frequently in dogs due to the makeup of their saliva and tooth enamel, but can still form from bacteria on the toothโ€™s surface.Look for black, decaying areas on the tooth at the gum line or on top of molars, as well as softened enamel. Cavities can cause pain, difficulty in chewing, and in extreme cases, organ disease if bacterial toxins release into the bloodstream. Tooth extraction is a common treatment for caries, though some teeth can be filled and saved.

Carnassial tooth abscess

The upper fourth premolar tooth is the largest in your dogโ€™s mouth. One of this toothโ€™s three roots is affected by this condition when excess bacteria travels up through the gum line, or reaches the root through the bloodstream. If this area becomes infected, it is extremely painful for your dog. Symptoms of this condition include swelling, discharge below the eye, fever, loss of appetite, and depression. External facial symptoms may look like a bug bite, a wound, or an eye infection, and the tooth typically does not look affected since the infection is internal. Tooth extraction is the most common method of treatment, though a process similar to a root canal is sometimes effective.

Periapical abscess

Like humans, dogs can also develop apical abscesses under the gumline. This infection occurs at the tip of the root, where pus formations appear under or in the tissues surrounding the dog's tooth. Typically caused by periodontal disease, this condition can cause mild to severe discomfort and will spread if left untreated. Symptoms include halitosis, discolored teeth, swollen gums, facial swelling, and sensitivity when eating.

Mouth tumors

Masses that appear in your dogโ€™s mouth area, including the  lips, tongue, gums and lymph regions surrounding the mouth, sometimes form as a result of periodontal disease. Symptoms of mouth tumors include tooth movement, sores, bleeding, difficulty eating, excessive drooling, and halitosis. A biopsy will determine if the growth is malignant and must be surgically removed.

Dental disease carries serious risk to your dogโ€™s health. If you notice any symptoms of these issues, be sure to consult your veterinarian.

More on Dog Dental Health

19 Products That Clean Cat and Dog Teeth
5 Ways to Improve Your Dog's Dental Health
Causes of Cat and Dog Bad Breath

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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Adult Periodontal Disease Bad Breath (Halitosis)

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