This post should be referred to for educational purposes only. I would always advise that you consult your veterinarian to discuss your pet’s health or concerns you may have.
Most of us will either brush our teeth in the morning after we wake up and/or in the evening before bed. We do this to remove food and bacteria from the tooth’s surface to help keep our teeth and gums healthy.
So why should this be any different in our lovely furry friends? Incorporating a daily oral hygiene routine into your dog’s schedule and having regular dental appointments with your veterinarian will help support good oral and overall health.
Table of Contents
Dental Anatomy of Dogs
Dogs, like most mammals, are classed as diphyodonts. This means they have two sets of teeth that will erupt within the oral cavity. They are:
- 28 deciduous (baby or milk) teeth
- 42 permanent (adult) teeth
Puppies’ deciduous teeth start erupting at around three weeks of age. The deciduous teeth should fall out between four-five months of age to make room for the permanent teeth. Do bear in mind though that these timings can differ between each breed.
As a general rule though, by the time the puppy is seven months of age, all of its permanent teeth should be present or at least have started to erupt.
Function of the Teeth
The four types of teeth and their uses in our dogs are:
- Incisors – The small teeth at the front of the mouth between the fangs (canines). They are mostly responsible for cutting and nibbling at food. They can be handy for grooming their fur coat; to pick at those naughty biting fleas. Wild dogs, when eating, use them to grasp the hide to strip it from the carcass.
- Canines – The hard to miss, long sharp pointy teeth. They are responsible for grasping and tearing meat and occasionally for display. I hope your beloved pooch doesn’t show his canines to you in an aggressive, warning way! Wild dogs use them to hold and kill their prey as well as in defense.
- Pre-Molars – The flat sharp-edged teeth. They are needed for cutting and shearing large chunks of meat.
- Molars – The flat surface teeth used for grinding food, biscuits into small pieces.
Periodontal disease (gum disease) is one of the most common infectious diseases seen in small animal practices.
The tooth and the following tissues that support and surround the tooth are affected, which include:
- Bone tissue
There are four stages to periodontal disease but the two that are most recognized are:
Periodontal disease is graded on a scale of 0 (normal) to 4 (severe) by a veterinarian during an oral examination.
Various studies have shown that 80% of dogs over the age of three have some form of dental disease.
It is caused by a build-up of plaque above and below the gum line. Plaque is a thin, sticky, white-greyish film that consists of bacteria, saliva, and food. Plaque naturally sticks to the tooth’s surface and if left untouched, it will calcify into tartar by minerals such as calcium and phosphorus found in the dog’s diet.
Tartar tends to be brown or yellowish and is typically found along the gum line or on the insides of the teeth. The plaque will attach to clean teeth within 24 hours if not disturbed.
In the absence of appropriate treatment, periodontal disease can advance from affecting the gum and tooth to the tooth’s supportive structures.
Thus, it has the potential to result in:
- Bone and tooth loss
- Broken jaw
- Infection of the sinuses
Not only does this bacteria cause havoc in the mouth, but it may also enter the bloodstream via damaged gums and cause harm to the heart, liver, and kidneys.
Dental disease can be extremely painful. Early warning signs can be missed by owners because dogs rarely show signs of pain. Keep a close eye for the following:
- Gingivitis – swelling or inflammation of the gingiva
- Halitosis – bad breath
- Build-up of plaque and tartar
- Loose or missing teeth
Behavioral changes can sometimes be easier to spot and these changes may indicate dental problems. These can include but are not limited to:
- Mouth chattering
- Pawing at face/rubbing face along the floor
- Chewing on one side of the mouth
- Smacking of lips
- Tongue hanging out of the mouth
Do Toy & Miniature Poodles have Bad Teeth?
Studies have shown that Poodles are amongst the breeds most at risk of suffering from dental disease.
Smaller breeds, in general, are also more prone to periodontal disease due to suffering from the following:
Overcrowding Teeth in the Poodle
Dogs’ teeth are not proportional to the size of their bodies. In the case of our small friends, their teeth are pretty big in relation to their small mouths. Therefore, this can cause the teeth to rotate 90° or cusps to overlap, resulting in plaque, food, and other debris being entrapped.
Canine Retained Deciduous Teeth
Each tooth should have its own space. However, in this case, as the permanent tooth pushes through and the deciduous tooth remains, both teeth end up sharing the same socket. This prevents the gum tissue from forming a proper seal between these teeth, allowing bacteria to enter the roots of the teeth.
When two teeth are positioned close together and start abnormally rubbing against each other, the enamel can chip or wear away. This creates a rough surface that plaque and tartar thrive on resulting in periodontal disease.
How to Treat Bad Teeth in Poodles
Periodontal treatment aims to control the cause of inflammation – plaque.
Tooth brushing acts by removing the plaque’s biofilm through friction and is therefore highly recommended for optimal results. As long as the teeth have been checked and deemed healthy by a veterinarian, it is never too late to start a regular dental regime at home.
At the Veterinary Clinic
Some clinics advise twice-yearly dental check-ups. At these appointments, the veterinarian will examine your dog’s oral cavity and advise you on the best course of action. Further investigations such as dental radiographs and periodontal probing will require a general anesthetic (GA).
If a good amount of plaque and tartar is present, the only effective way of removal is with an ultrasonic descaling instrument under GA. This involves each affected tooth being scaled above and below the gum line. Once finished, the tooth’s surface is then polished to smooth away any rough patches that prevent plaque from building up.
Surgical tooth extractions are sometimes necessary and may be due to the following reasons:
- Periodontal disease
- Persistent deciduous teeth
- Fractured teeth
Can Poodles Eat with No Teeth?
Yes, dogs can eat just fine without teeth. Many veterinarians report that dogs return to their normal feeding habits once the mouth has healed and is free from pain.
Your veterinarian will advise you on the appropriate home care you will be required to provide your dog. Some basic pieces of advice after surgical extractions are to:
- Feed soft food or moisten down kibble until the mouth has healed
- Avoid touching the mouth
How to Take Care of Poodle Teeth
The gold-standard dental care recommendation is to brush your pet’s teeth once daily. A child’s toothbrush can be used as it has soft bristles. Otherwise, there are numerous dog toothbrushes available with long handles to help reach the back molars.
Once the bristles become frayed or at around every eight weeks, replace the toothbrush with a new one. Use a veterinary-approved dog toothpaste. DO NOT use human toothpaste. It contains fluoride, detergents, and frothing agents that are not meant to be swallowed. And unlike us, dogs cannot spit. The fluoride in them can also be poisonous to dogs.
The trick is to start slow and build up gradually. If you are doing this in an older dog with no prior history of toothbrushing they of course will be thinking what is going on here?! So try not to rush.
Do not attempt toothbrushing in aggressive dogs. If at any time during tooth brushing your dog shows signs of aggression, stop immediately and contact your veterinarian.
Follow this step-by-step guide over a couple of weeks:
- Ask the vet or nurse to show you how to handle your dog’s lips and teeth. At home, get them used to them being played with.
- Smear your chosen dog toothpaste onto a surface for your dog to lick off to become accustomed to the taste.
- Progress to smearing a small amount of the toothpaste onto your dog’s teeth and gums.
- Introduce the toothbrush and gently stroke several teeth in a circular motion a couple of times over the next week.
- Build up to brushing all the teeth over a couple of weeks.
A tip I heard from a veterinary sales representative was to brush the incisors last as they are quite sensitive. Remember to always reward your dog with either a treat or plenty of praise after each session.
Recommended Dental Products
If brushing is a no-no, then there are several alternatives you could try:
- Dental chews
- Veterinary prescribed dental diets
- Veterinary approved products to add to the food or water bowl
Click on this link to see a list of accepted dental products for dogs, compiled by The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC).
Fractured Teeth in Dogs
Don’t be fooled into thinking a hard dental treat or chew toy is better than a soft one just because they can sink their teeth into it. It may last longer but a study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania confirmed dogs’ teeth will fracture if they chew on a product that is too hard.
As a rule of thumb, if you cannot make an indentation in the product with your fingernail then it is too hard. A broken tooth with or without an exposed pulp would be extremely painful for your dog and require immediate veterinary attention.
Both you and your veterinarian play an equally important role in managing your dog’s oral health. Not only will it make them smile on the outside but also on the inside!