Dental Disease (Gingivitis and Periodontal Disease) in Dogs

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Last updated on
3 min read

Key takeaways

Dental diseases are  a variety of conditions affecting the mouth, teeth, gums, and tooth support structure. This is incredibly common in dogs with approximately 80% of dogs experiencing some form of dental disease by the age of two.

  • Root causes vary but include periodontal disease, physical damage, congenital disorders/malfunctions, infectious disease, and oral masses
  • Diagnostics  include a full oral exam, blood work, and diagnostic imaging
  • Treatment depends on the root cause of the disorder but usually involves general anesthesia for dental cleaning and extractions
  • Prognosis is generally favorable but home dental care is necessary to minimize the need for professional intervention
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A closer look: Dental Disease (Gingivitis and Periodontal Disease) in Dogs

The most common cause of dental disease is accumulation of plaque. Plaque forms as a result of the accumulation of bacteria on the surface of the teeth. The presence of plaque causes gum inflammation (gingivitis) and tartar formation. Dental abscesses may form, and as periodontal disease progresses, teeth may become loose or fall out.

Dental injuries often present with:

  • Broken teeth
  • Bleeding from the mouth
  • Obvious deformity of the jaw

Other types of dental disease affect more than just the teeth and mouth.

Symptoms can vary in presence and severity depending on the root cause and the progression of disease. Initially, symptoms may not be present and only appear as the condition worsens.

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Risk factors

Dental disease is very common in dogs, with approximately 80% experiencing some form by the age of two. This is also a disease that is very undertreated and initially has few outward symptoms. Maintaining good oral hygiene at home and complying with regular professional dental cleanings are beneficial for avoiding more serious disease later in life.

Genetics play a role in the development of dental disease. Brachycephalic breeds, toy breeds, and dogs bred to have an undershot jaw are predisposed to dental disease due to malocclusions and crowding of teeth.

Possible causes

The underlying cause for some types of dental disease cannot be determined, such as in cases of oral resorptive lesions.

A variety of other causes contribute to other types of dental disease.

Main symptoms

Dental disease as a result of plaque accumulation is the most common form.

Testing and diagnosis

After a physical examination and medical history, a complete oral examination under anesthesia is usually necessary to make a complete diagnosis. Depending on the cause, blood work, bacterial culturing, and diagnostic imaging may also be needed.

Steps to Recovery

Treatment depends on the underlying condition but can include:

  • Dental cleaning
  • Tooth extraction
  • Root canal
  • Surgery

The prognosis depends on the specific type of dental disease in question but is generally favorable with treatment and regular monitoring of dental health.


The primary method to reduce dental disease is regular oral hygiene. This includes daily teeth brushing and use of veterinary supported chews. Routine prophylactic cleaning under general anesthesia is the best way to minimize the impact of dental diseases. Dental disease is not contagious. Note always consult a veterinarian before choosing toothpaste for dogs. Never use toothpaste formulated for humans on animals.

Is Dental Disease (Gingivitis and Periodontal Disease) in Dogs common?

Dental disease is very common in dogs.

Typical Treatment

  • Dental cleaning
  • Tooth extraction
  • Root canal
  • Surgery

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