As humans, brushing our teeth twice a day is just one of those things we do without thinking twice. Our pups' teeth, however, usually don't get the same treatment. Stinky breath aside, dogs' oral health is often overlooked until it's too late and they need teeth pulled or worse. In fact, by the time they are 3 years old, most pups already show signs of gum disease. Even if you do brush them once a day as most vets advise, to prevent the buildup of troublesome plaque and tartar, there are some pretty surprising other ways you can help keep their chompers healthy:
They Need a Yearly Checkup
That's right, your pup needs a teeth cleaning, just like you! At a professional veterinary dental cleaning, they'll do a complete oral exam with x-rays to identify any issues lurking beneath the gum line, clean under it, which is where periodontal disease begins, scrape their teeth to remove plaque and then polish them. The American Veterinary Dental College highly recommends anesthesia for the procedure, so vets can adequately clean their teeth without causing pain.
They May Be Trying to Tell You Something's Wrong
Stinky breath isn't just an indication that your pup ate something funky off the sidewalk: It's a commonly overlooked signal of the early stages of periodontal disease. Other signs include, but are not limited to, bleeding gums, gum recession, discolored teeth and oral discomfort. If you notice any of these in your pup, take them to the vet for a dental evaluation.
They Need You to Go Beyond Daily Brushing
Besides that yearly checkup and routine brushing, your pup's teeth need more TLC. Daily chews approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council can help remove regular plaque and tartar, as can natural "treats" like carrots and apples. Dental wipes can also help keep your pup's teeth clean if they're not easy to brush, as can some water additives.
They're Strong, but Not That Strong
Your pup's teeth have a chewing force about 3 to 4 times stronger than ours, but don't let that fool you. Ice, nylon bones, antlers and other common dog chews can lead to fractured teeth, resulting in an unwanted, expensive trip to the vet. And ditch those old, fuzzy tennis balls! The seemingly harmless fuzz is actually abrasive to your pup's teeth, wearing them down over time.