Things Dog Owners Need To Know About Common Canine Oral Health Problems

Just like you wouldn’t neglect your dog’s coat, it’s important to learn how to take care of their teeth.

Handling, checking and caring for your dog’s teeth and gums can prevent further problems from developing and can make it easier to notice when it’s time for a trip to the vets. 

In honour of Pet Dental Health Month, at Groomers, we’ve pulled together a range of some of the most common dog dental health problems, how to spot them and how to put a useful dental health routine together for your dog at home, to prevent these issues from occurring.

dog dental health

Table of Contents:

How can you tell if a dog’s teeth are healthy?

How can I improve my dog’s dental health?

How often should dogs get their teeth cleaned?

How can I remove plaque from my dog’s teeth?

How can you tell if a dog’s teeth are healthy?

dog dental health

The best way to know if your dog has healthy teeth is to check them regularly. By getting to know your dog’s mouth, you’ll find it much easier to spot issues, should they occur.

Here’s how to check your dog’s teeth

  1. Gently lift up the dog’s lip folds to check their teeth, then open their jaw to check their mouth and gums for any abnormalities.
  2. Check each tooth for any build-up of plaque or tartar.
  3. Check their breath for any unusual or offensive smells.
  4. If your dog is comfortable with it, brush their teeth twice weekly with pet-friendly toothpaste to stay on top of their dental health. Never use human toothpaste on your dog’s teeth, as it may contain toxins that are harmful to dogs.
  5. If you have any concerns about your dog’s teeth or oral health, always consult your vet.

It’s important to stay on top of your dog’s teeth care, as untreated problems can result in various teeth and gum issues, or if left untreated, more serious issues such as heart, liver and kidney problems. Here are the most common canine dental problems and what to look out for, so you can spot the signs should your dog’s teeth need extra, professional care;-

Tooth and gum issues 

Gum disease

Gum disease, or gingivitis, is the most common canine oral health problem. Inflammation of the gums is caused by a build-up of tartar and bacteria on the gum line; symptoms include bleeding gums, tooth loss and infection. If spotted early, gum disease can easily be resolved by regular tooth brushing and dental chew toys.

Loose teeth

Like human children, puppies naturally lose their deciduous, ‘baby’ teeth. However, if your dog loses adult teeth, this will typically result from tooth trauma, gum disease or illness. If you notice that your dog has a loose tooth, consult your vet as you may need to book them in for an abstraction.

Crooked teeth 

Occasionally a dog may have extremely misaligned teeth, which can cause sores inside their mouths or problems with eating. In this case, the problem tooth/teeth should be removed by a vet.

Tooth trauma

Rough play, tugging games, or chewing on inappropriate items can cause a dog’s teeth to crack. If you notice a cracked or chipped tooth, take your dog to the vet, as over time, this could lead to an abscess or tooth rot. 


Abscesses are typically caused by advanced gum disease or a broken tooth exposed to bacteria. There will typically be a red swelling around the gum area, and your dog may refuse food. Sore or inflamed eyes can also be symptoms of an abscess affecting the upper jaw.

To treat an abscess, your dog will usually need a course of antibiotics and possibly a tooth extraction to remove the offending tooth.

Plaque and Tartar

Plaque is a white coloured, soft paste of bacteria that can cause bad breath and tooth decay, whereas tartar is solidified plaque. Plaque can be easily removed by brushing, but for tartar build-up, your dog’s teeth will have to be professionally cleaned at the vets, under a general anaesthetic.

Cavities and tooth decay 

Cavities are usually caused by the acids from fermented carbohydrates, which affect canine tooth enamel and dentine, leading to structural damage and infection. Tooth decay is easily prevented by brushing or offering dental chew toys after meals.

How can I improve my dog’s dental health?

Giving your dog a healthy, balanced diet and offering them dental chews and toys can add positive benefits to your dog’s oral health but the best way to look after your dog’s teeth, if it’s possible to do so, is by regularly brushing them at home. 

How to clean your dog’s teeth

  1. Similar to other dog grooming processes, it’s important to take some time to gradually introduce your dog to their new teeth cleaning routine, allowing them to get used to the equipment and the process. Even if it takes days or weeks, it’s important that they feel relaxed and comfortable.
  2. Start by gradually getting your dog used to having you handle their mouth. Once happy and comfortable, you can move on to the next step.
  3. Add some dog-friendly toothpaste to your finger and allow them to lick it off to get them accustomed to the taste. Then, show your dog its toothbrush so it can investigate it and get used to it. A soft finger brush can be a good tool to start with until your dog is more relaxed with the process.
  4. Once your dog is more confident with everything, start by brushing a couple of their teeth to get them used to the action and motion. Start by brushing the outside of their teeth, slowly followed by the inside.
  5. The more accepting your dog becomes of its new dental routine, the more time you can spend brushing their teeth, slowly building up to a full brushing routine and inspection at least a couple of times a week.
  6. Finish off your dog’s routine with dental chews made from natural ingredients that support your dog’s healthy digestive system. Dental chews are designed to reach the back of the teeth where it’s difficult to get a brush, and their unique ridges help to work between the grooves, smaller spaces and gaps of your dog’s teeth to prevent the build-up of plaque and stimulate blood flow to the gums to prevent bad breath.

How often should dogs get their teeth cleaned?

To ensure healthy teeth and gums, once happy with their tooth brushing routine, you should aim to clean your dog’s teeth two to three times a week, giving their mouth a full inspection before cleaning to check for any unusual abnormalities or changes.

If you notice that your dog has a build-up of tartar on their teeth, it may be worth consulting with your vet to see if they would benefit from having their teeth professionally cleaned to remove the tartar and prevent any further problems.

How can I remove plaque from my dog’s teeth?

Plaque usually forms on a dog’s teeth within a few hours of eating a meal. If dealt with quickly, this gummy substance is easy to remove either by wiping with a cloth or brushing the teeth with dog toothpaste. 

Plaque left unremoved combines with salts present in saliva and can harden to form tartar, which can harm a dog’s gums if left untreated. So it’s important to remove plaque as soon as it appears by establishing a good brushing routine to avoid oral problems and potential professional teeth clean.

Shop Dental products at Groomers

Now you’ve established your dog’s teeth cleaning routine, why not browse our full range of dental products at Groomers for all of the essentials to keep their teeth in check?

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