Just like people, dogs can develop dental problems, including cavities. Today, our Bedford vets discuss cavities in dogs including what causes them and how they can be treated.
Can Dogs Get Cavities?
Dogs can develop a range of dental health conditions such as periodontal disease and cavities (also known as tooth decay) when they aren't provided with the level of routine oral health care they require.
What Cause Cavities in Dogs?
Similar to humans when dogs eat, leftover food debris residue gets consumed by bacteria that naturally reside in their mouth and turn into plaque.
You might know plaque as the white substance that sticks to your teeth throughout the day. Plaque is mildly acidic and fairly sticky, slowly eating away at the protective outer layers of your dog's teeth over time (also causing the mild-to-severe bad breath we often consider normal for middle-aged or senior dogs).
If your pup's mouth isn't cleaned for a long enough period of time, the acidic plaque on your dog's teeth will cause small or large holes in their enamel, called cavities, dental caries, or tooth decay.
There could be certain pre-existing conditions in your dog's mouth that might make them more susceptible to developing cavities in addition to a lack of regular cleanings. These include:
- Poor general health
- Gaps between teeth and gums caused by gum recession
- Misaligned or crowded teeth in your dog's mouth
- A low pH level in your dog's saliva
- Weaker-than-normal tooth enamel (caused by poor mineralization)
- A diet with lots of fermentable carbohydrates (often found in poor-quality dog food or high-carb table scraps)
How Can I Tell if My Dog Has a Cavity?
Depending on the severity of your pup's cavities, they might experience different levels of pain or discomfort caused by their tooth. Cavities are rated on a scale of 5 stages to describe their severity, from 1 (where only your pup's enamel has been damaged) to 5 (where the majority of their crown has been lost and their roots are exposed).
Below are a few of the most common symptoms that accompany (or are caused by) a dog's dental cavity:
- Bad breath
- Discolored teeth
- Noticeable Tartar buildup
- Reduced appetite or refusal to eat
- Abnormal chewing, drooling or dropping food from the mouth
- Pain or swelling in or around the mouth
- Bleeding from the mouth
For some dogs, the pain or discomfort caused by a cavity is enough to keep them from eating enough (or eating altogether). If you see your dog displaying any of the symptoms displayed above, take your dog to see our Bedford vets for a dental checkup and treatment as fast as possible.
How Will My Dog's Cavity Be Treated?
There are two broad categories of treatment that can be used to treat cavities in dogs: professional treatment for existing cavities and preventive treatment for cavities that are in their early stages or before they have an opportunity to develop in the first place.
Restorative Dental Treatment for a Canine Cavity
The exact treatment used to treat your dog's cavity will depend on its severity. If you have discovered a cavity just as it was starting to develop, your vet might suggest using a fluoride wash or bonding agent to prevent further degradation and will continue to monitor it.
If your pooch's cavity has progressed any further, the diseased enamel, dentin, or pulp will have to be removed and the tooth will need to be restored with a root canal, filling, or other restorative treatment. If the cavity has progressed far enough (to stages 4 or 5), the tooth may not be treatable and might have to be extracted from your dog's mouth to prevent further degradation of their oral health.
Recovery from a filling or tooth removal treatment is often fairly quick, but you might need to provide your dog with specialized after-care in order to keep them from harming their mouth or their new filling.
Routine Care to Prevent Cavities
The most reliable way to protect your dog's dental and overall health, as well as fight cavities, is to maintain a routine schedule of regular oral hygiene care at home, with special toothbrushes and toothpaste designed specifically for dogs.
In addition to at-home oral health care, make sure you bring your pup to see our Bedford vets at least once a year for professional dental exams and cleanings. This will provide us with the opportunity to conduct a more thorough hygiene cleaning of your dog's teeth as well as to detect cavities early when they can be prevented.