Senior Dog Teeth Issues And How to Prevent And Care For Them

Dogs have a lot of things in common with people. Dental issues are one. As humans age, they can develop dental problems, and dogs are the same way. If a dog hasn’t received proper dental care throughout his life, odds are that he’s going to have some senior dog teeth issues. Even dogs who have received regular care can still have a tooth issue in old age. Tooth loss can often result, leaving an older dog with fewer teeth to chew with and a painful mouth to boot. And in some cases, dental disease can lead to serious systemic illness and a shortened life span.

Signs of senior dog teeth issues

Dog smiling and getting his teeth brushed.

Senior dog teeth issues can happen even if you’ve been careful about your dog’s dental health. Know the signs! Photography ©karelnoppe | Getty Images.

How can you tell if your dog is having issues with his teeth? Here are some telltale signs that mean a vet visit is in order:

  1. Bad breath: When your dog has bad breath, something is going on with his teeth or gums. He may have a gum or tooth infection. Don’t cover it up with doggie breath mints. Take him to the vet.
  2. Trouble eating: Dogs with mouth pain often struggle to eat their food. They may chew only on one side, drop food from their mouth when eating or just refuse to eat.
  3. Signs of pain: When dogs are in pain, they have a way of showing you. If your dog’s mouth is hurting, he may paw at his face or rub it on the floor. He may also become depressed and lethargic.
  4. Tartar on teeth: As with humans, plaque becomes tartar when it builds up on the teeth. Daily brushing only does so much to keep tartar at bay. Eventually, a cleaning is needed to remove it. Tartar is bad because it affects the health of the gums, which in turn compromises the teeth. If not addressed, excess tartar can result in periodontal disease, which causes inflammation of the tooth’s deep supporting structures. The end result is tooth loss.

How to help senior dog teeth issues

Dog holding a toothbrush and smiling.

Good news: There are ways to help your senior dog combat his dental issues. Photography by Holly Hilldreth Photography.

So what can you do to help your senior dog retain his teeth, minimize oral discomfort and avoid serious dental disease? Here are some pointers:

  1. Regular teeth cleanings: Ideally, your dog has been receiving regular teeth cleanings since he was young. Teeth cleaning by a veterinarian helps gums stay healthy and reduces the likelihood of future tooth loss. If your senior pooch doesn’t have a history of good dental care, it’s never too late to start. Take your dog to the veterinari- an at least once a year for a full exam, which will include a dental examination. Follow your vet’s advice about when to have your dog’s teeth cleaned. (If your senior dog has health issues that make putting him under anesthesia too risky, your vet may recommend a non-anesthetic dental cleaning.)
  2. Daily brushing: While it’s hard to find the time to brush your dog’s teeth every day, the more you do it, the healthier his gums will be. Just as with humans, plaque builds up on his teeth and under his gums and can cause periodontal disease and tooth loss. Daily brushing helps remove that plaque, putting less stress on the gums.
  3. Provide healthy chews: While it’s tempting to provide your dog with bones and hard chew toys, the truth is that dogs can break their teeth on these products. (My Corgi, Nigel, had to have a crown put on one of his back molars because he broke his tooth on a hard toy. It became quite the object of conversation.) The best chew toys are ones that give in response to the dog’s jaw pressure and aren’t hard enough to break a tooth.

Tell us: What senior dog teeth issues have you dealt with?

Thumbnail: Photography ©PeopleImages | Getty Images.

An award-winning writer and editor, Audrey Pavia is a former managing editor at Dog Fancy magazine and former senior editor of The AKC Gazette. She is the author of The Labrador Retriever Handbook (Barrons) and has written extensively on horses as well as other pets. She shares her home in Norco, California, with two rescue dogs, Candy and Mookie.

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Dogster magazine. Have you seen the new Dogster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? Subscribe now to get Dogster magazine delivered straight to you!

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