Plaque and tartar build-up in dogs: How do they form?

There are many things to consider when it comes to the overall health of your dog, your dog's oral health is a large part of that. Our Doraville vets discuss plaque and tartar buildup in dogs and how it forms. 

How do plaque and tartar form, and what do they do?

Plaque and tartar buildup is a significant issue in most dogs by the time they are 3 years old. 

After your dog has finished eating there will be a gummy substance that is left on their teeth. In the 24 hour period after eating this substance will combine with salts and minerals that are in your pup's saliva and harden. This hardened material is known as tartar or calculus and will continue to accumulate as time passes and can develop either above or below the gum line and is typically rough and porous in appearance. 

If plaque and tartar are left untreated they can quickly become a serious oral health concern and can, in turn, affect the overall health of your dog. Just as you would for other areas of your dog's health, preventive care is key for oral health as well. There are many options for preventive care on the market and easy-to-manage oral care routines in order to help reduce tartar buildup and avoid bacterial infections of the gums.  Using these available options pet owners are able to tackle these oral health issues from the start. 

If this buildup has already advanced then you will require the assistance of a veterinarian to remove the tartar using specialized equipment. Advanced buildup and bacteria can cause gingivitis and eventually periodontal disease which can cause inflammation, pain and tooth loss. It is also possible for the bacteria to be absorbed into the bloodstream and carried to the organs in your dog's body causing infection. 

If you notice any signs of dental distress it is important to contact your vet to have your dog's teeth examined. 

Cleaning your dog’s teeth

Regular brushing of your dog's teeth is ideal in order to prevent plaque and tartar buildup. It is important that you use toothpaste that is manufactured specifically for dogs as toothpaste for humans could make your dog sick.  Brushing your dog's teeth is easiest when started at a very young age but no matter the age it will take time for your dog to adjust to this new routine. Making brushing a regular part of your routine each week will allow your dog to accept this new health practice as time goes on. 

It may be easiest to first use your finger to thoroughly rub each of their teeth and along the gumline. Once your dog has adjusted to this you can move on to using the toothbrush as your dog allows. It may be ideal to begin with brushing for short periods of time and work your way up to full tooth brushing. Once your dog has accepted tooth brushing you can add it as a regular part of their oral health care routine. 

It is recommended to brush your dog's teeth daily if possible, but no less than weekly. During teeth brushing it is important to ensure that you have brushed the gumline where the majority of the plaque and tartar will be found. Dental treats are another great way to help remove plaque and other debris that may be stuck to your dog's teeth as they chew. 

There are also many specialized diets available for your dog that can have a positive impact on removing plaque and tartar and assist your dog in keeping your dog's mouth clean and healthy. 

How can I prevent plaque and tartar formation on my dog's teeth?

Regular dental care and cleanings by your vet are important to the overall oral health of your dog and a great foundation for routine at-home oral care. Some ways at-home care helps your dog's oral health are:

  • Feeding your dog a diet recommended by your vet which is formulated specifically for oral health care and focuses on preventive care. 
  • Daily brushing and cleaning of your dog's teeth using a toothpaste made specifically for your pup.
  • Your vet can recommend water additives that can help to clean and protect your dog's teeth from buildup. 
  • Offering toys to your dog that are made to remove buildup as they chew. Be sure to only allow your dog to chew on items that are safe as some objects may cause damage. 
  • Ensuring routine dental care and cleanings by your vet in order to prevent buildup from the very start. 

When to visit your vet

If you happen to notice any visible signs of buildup or decay then it is time to make an appointment for your vet to examine your dog's oral health. It is also recommended to watch for breath that smells worse than usual as well as any signs that your dog may be in physical discomfort.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet. 

Is it time to schedule a routine oral checkup for your dog or have you noticed a change in their oral health? Contact your WellPet Humane vet today to have your dog examined.