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Learn How to Tell When Good Teeth Go Bad

The February issue of the AKC Gazette – the American Kennel Club's flagship publication – the oldest continuously published dog magazine in America – has devoted several articles to dental health and product reviews as part of National Pet Dental Health Month, sponsored in part by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

“When was the last time you had a good look in your dog's mouth? If he's over 3 years old, there is a 75 percent chance that he has dental disease—plaque, tartar, and inflamed gums. Besides causing bad breath and tooth loss, infection in the oral cavity can spread to vital internal organs. Oral disease can shorten your dog's life,” writes Jeff Grognet, DVM in “When Good Teeth Go Bad” featured in the February issue of the AKC Gazette.


  • Don't ignore bad breath, discolored teeth, or the red gums of your canine friend. Your dog needs diligent oral care from both you and your veterinarian to live a full and healthy life.

  • Symptoms of canine oral disease include bad breath, a change in eating or chewing habits, pawing at the face or mouth and depression. Vets recommend regular dental exams for all dogs.

  • Small-breed dogs are prone to tartar accumulation when very young, which results in the loss of many teeth by the time they're 10 years old.

  • Larger breeds, such as German Shepherd Dogs, don't collect as much tartar on their teeth so they are not as prone to gum recession. Though they can have problems with gingivitis and tartar, they are much more likely to experience tooth fracture.

  • Look in your dog's mouth regularly. If his gums are cherry red, he has gingivitis. If you smell foul breath, he has a bacterial infection—it might just be from plaque, but it could also be an abscessed tooth.

  • Whether a dog has an abscessed or fractured tooth or tartar and gum disease, the bacteria in his mouth can penetrate his gums and migrate via the bloodstream throughout his body—the heart, kidneys, and liver are particularly susceptible to invasion by oral bacteria.

  • When you detect a problem in your dog's mouth, have him examined by your veterinarian.


According to an American Veterinary Dental Society survey, 80 percent of dogs show signs of oral disease by age 3. Regular brushing helps prevent it—and dental care treats make a nice adjunct in between. In the article “Beyond the Paste” AKC Gazette staffers tested several products that can help bridge the gap between doggie bad breath and pearly whites. Here are some of their findings:


  • 3M Dental Treats: These have a funny-looking three-prong design meant to promote chewing but the dogs don't seem to mind. Whether it's the shape, the pliable texture, or the mint taste, this treat was the one that seemed to get our dogs' tails wagging the most—even those usually blasé about treats.

  • Greenies: Based on a study of how different breeds and sizes chew, the new Greenies were made to be 95.7 percent digestible, according to the manufacturers. They're sized Teenie to Jumbo, and make it easier to get in between your dog's teeth. The verdict? Dogs still love 'em.

  • White Bites: These baking-soda infused oral-care treats promise cleaner teeth, fresher breath, and long-lasting results. AKC Gazette reviewers attest to the good dissolvability (always a concern), and also report a slight improvement to doggy breath.

  • Iams Tartar Treats: These textured brush-shaped treats are designed to appeal to your dog's chewing habit. The ingredients work on his tartar buildup as he chews. Most of our dogs, even those with a tendency to gulp, slowed down to enjoy chomping—but, as with any of these, and other treats, supervision is a good idea.

  • Easy Brush: This chew-it-yourself toothbrush for dogs is shaped like a bone, so dogs instinctively hold it between their paws and move it from one side of their mouth to the other. Make sure you work the toothpaste deep into the bristles or the dog will lick it off the top instead of working to get at it with her teeth.