Shiny, healthy white teeth are an apparently obvious indication of dental health in both people and dogs, but not all dogs have gleaming pearly whites throughout their life, and just like people, your dog’s teeth can change over time.
Taking care of your dog’s teeth is really important, and yet it is still something that most dog owners overlook – which means that by the time the average dog reaches around the age of five, their teeth may already be suffering from a lack of preventative care. Additionally, many people also think that bad breath is normal and natural in dogs – when in fact it is an indicator of dental problems that may be both painful and harmful to your dog’s health.
Cleaning your dog’s teeth regularly gives you the chance to check the teeth over for problems, as well as helping to prevent them – and to identify the ways in which your dog’s teeth might be changing over time.
Looking at the colour of your dog’s teeth and any changes in colour or patches of different-looking areas can help you to spot problems that should be rectified before they become acute – and in this article we will talk about the colour that your dog’s teeth should be, and some of the problems that colour changes or patches of uneven colour can indicate. Read on to learn more.
A young dog with clean, healthy teeth should have white teeth – think the colour that your dog’s teeth were when they first grew in their adult set.
Whilst the exact shade of white can vary from dog to dog, unless your dog has a condition like enamel hypoplasia, which can cause the teeth to appear yellow, their teeth should appear white. If you brush your dog’s teeth regularly and properly, they should stay largely white too, and not begin to noticeably yellow until your dog reaches old age, if at all.
If your dog’s teeth are all turning a noticeably dingy shade of yellow, this is likely to be due to the accumulation of plaque on the teeth, which is the precursor of tartar, gum disease and dental decay. If the yellowing is fairly uniform and smooth, the chances are that you have spotted the development of plaque in its earliest stages, when you may still be able to reverse it by speaking to your vet about improving your dog’s dental care regime and the products you use to care for their teeth.
However, left unchecked, plaque will turn into tartar and begin to damage the teeth and gums, potentially causing gum disease and cavities.
Tartar is what plaque turns into if it is not cleaned away from the teeth – and this can’t always be achieved with just normal brushing. Tartar tends to develop first of all around the gumline – where the teeth and gums meet – and again, has a noticeably dingy yellow appearance that will often appear rough or lumpy. Tartar is a very hard substance that often has to be chipped off using special dental tools – which means that removing it is usually performed as part of a sedated veterinary dental procedure.
Tartar works under the gumline and causes irritated gums and tooth decay, and will lead to cavities and pain if left untreated.
Teeth that turn grey rather than white may be teeth that have died or are dying – possibly as the result of an injury or accident that damaged the tooth and its nerves. Dead teeth don’t always fall out on their own, and they can cause problems for the rest of your dog’s teeth – so if your dog has one or more teeth that appear grey, overly pale or almost transparent, you should ask your vet to investigate and consider having the teeth in question extracted.
Tooth decay can lead to one or more whole teeth rotting away, but tooth decay starts with cavities, which may appear as black or brown spots or patches on the teeth. During the early stages of such decay, your vet may be able to save the affected teeth if they can remove the decayed area without affecting the nerves, but in some cases decayed teeth will need to be extracted.
Tooth decay is usually very painful and will make it harder for your dog to eat comfortably – and decay also tends to spread to other teeth, as well as playing host to harmful bacteria that can even affect your dog’s digestive system.
A dog’s gums should be a healthy, rich pink colour with a natural shine to them – pale gums may indicate a problem, as may gums that are very red and inflamed. If your dog’s gums naturally have black patches or pigment due to their skin colour, this is normal – but you may still spot reddening around the gum line if your dog’s teeth and gums are in poor condition.
Additionally, if your dog’s gums start to turn black or otherwise change colour, this bears investigation.
Checking and cleaning your dog’s teeth regularly is important for their general health, and you should always ensure that you reach all of the teeth and don’t just concentrate on the visible surfaces. However, it is not always possible to properly view all of your dog’s teeth when you check them over, and it is easy to miss problems on hard-to-see surfaces – even for your vet.
For this reason, you should consider checking your dog in for a full sedated dental procedure every few years – particularly when your dog gets older – to ensure that their teeth are comfortable and pain-free.