Dental care really needs to be continuous from the time a dog is young. By the time a dog is geriatric, the effects of dental neglect will be evident and potentially life-shortening. Rotting teeth can cause gum and mouth infections, and these infections can migrate to the vital organs and cause serious damage. Gum (periodontal) disease is extremely common in older dogs, and one of the more serious health problems that occurs. Basically it is the overwhelming presence of bacteria in the plaque that adheres to a dog’s teeth. Ideally, from a young age, a dog will have access to chew toys and crunchy foods. In addition, your dog’s teeth should be cleaned on a regular basis by your vet. But the most important element in keeping your dog’s teeth and gums healthy is your brushing your dog’s teeth regularly — every other day or a minimum of three times a week. By brushing regularly, you can also lengthen the time between professional cleanings by the vet.

Doggie toothpaste, toothbrushes, and other devices for at-home teeth cleaning are available. The toothpaste should contain chlorhexidine to be effective. Beef- or chicken-flavored toothpaste will make your dog think he is getting a treat. (We know of dogs who beg to have their teeth brushed.) Here’s one technique for brushing your dog’s teeth: hold the mouth closed gently. Slide the brush in under the lips and along the teeth, toward the molars. Spend most of the brushing time on the molars, and do what you can with the other teeth. It’s not necessary to open the dog’s mouth to brush the inside surfaces of the teeth. Don’t give up if it doesn’t work so smoothly the first time. And try different techniques if the suggested one doesn’t suit your dog. By experimenting, you and your dog will learn how to cooperate to get the job done.

Some Great Products For Your Pet’s Teeth … As a dog ages, he gets lazier about chewing his food and playing with chew toys. He may develop a preference for softer food. He may give only a few half-hearted nudges to the toys and bones he once gnawed on happily for hours. A gradually diminishing interest in chewing is normal as a dog ages; but if your dog stops chewing suddenly or looks like he is eating in a gingerly fashion, it may be a sign that his teeth and gums are hurting and need professional attention. Have your vet check your older dog’s teeth regularly; but do it immediately if you notice a sudden change in his chewing or eating behavior. If your vet recommends that your dog’s teeth be cleaned under anesthesia, you should be informed about the risks. Read the information above on anesthesia. Alternatively, some vets will clean an older (mellower) dog’s teeth using an ultrasound scaler, a mild sedative, and a sack type of restraint. But this may not be possible, even with a mellow dog, if there is serious gum disease. Encourage chewing behavior as best you can: a new crunchy biscuit might work, or a new chew toy. Some of the rope flossing toys on the market are also often recommended by veterinarians. Most vets agree, however, that brushing is the most effective means of keeping your dog’s teeth and gums healthy in between professional cleanings.