Tooth loss is much more serious in dogs that many owners understand. Loss of the ability to correctly masticate or chew food can result in digestive problems and even further tooth loss as food sticks or collects in the pockets left by the missing teeth, increasing tarter build-up and leading to increased problems with gingivitis and gum disease.
As dog's mature and reach their senior years they are more prone to tooth loss. In some breeds such as the Chinese Crested, Chihuahua, Pomeranian, Shih Tzu and the Italian Greyhound tooth loss is a definite concern for owners. Tooth loss in small and miniature breeds, especially in those designated as teacup or toy is often one of the biggest factors that owners will have to deal with as the dog matures. For those interested in showing their dogs tooth loss can mean the end to competing in the ring as most breeds seriously penalize or disqualify dogs with missing teeth. Small dogs and dogs with teeth that are crowded in the mouth or that are crooked or overlapping teeth have more trouble with tooth loss than dogs with more evenly spaced and larger teeth.
Periodontal disease in dogs that leads to tooth loss is most often seen in dogs over the age of seven years. Early tooth care routines and regular cleaning and brushing by owners can often have a great impact on overall dental health and ability for the dog to retain their teeth. Providing high quality dry kibble, lots of varieties of chew toys and even joint bones for the dog to naturally scrape their teeth are also key in promoting dental health and hygiene for the dog.
Tooth loss is not always preventable as there are some genetic conditions that can cause premature tooth loss. Dogs with diabetes are much more likely to have tooth loss and dental disease than dogs of the same breed without diabetes. Endodontic disease is a bacterial infection that usually starts in a broken tooth, resulting in the infection going deep into the root of the tooth and ultimately to the jaw. This condition is very painful for the dog and can result in the infection spreading to the rest of the body through the blood. Any broken teeth should be extracted or examined and treated by the vet and checked for any signs of infection.
Genetic problems with calcium and phosphorus storage are also problematic for teeth. Often hormonal imbalances will cause the body to actually withdraw calcium from the bones, including the jaw, resulting in loosening of the teeth and possible tooth loss. Anemia and other blood disorders that affect the gums can also cause the gums to recede from the teeth, resulting in loss and poor dental health.
Starting as early as possible with a regular, two or more times a week home dental cleaning routine for your dog is essential, especially with breeds already prone to tooth loss problems. Talk to your breeder or vet and have the teeth examined every year or at any signs of excess tartar build-up, sore gums, bleeding from the gums or signs of mouth pain and chewing problems. Early treatment of any of these conditions may be the difference between keeping or loosing teeth for your pet.