Your dog is likely to develop dental problems from puppy-hood, and to help him retain his teeth into old age you’ll need to look after them and have him seen regularly for check-ups.
The 28 deciduous teeth which erupt at around three to four weeks may not make way for the usual 42 permanent teeth which come through at about six to eight months. Impacted teeth cause pain and overcrowding and make eating very difficult and your vet may need to extract the retained deciduous teeth under anesthetic.
Your dog is likely to start developing tartar on his teeth from the age of two if not before, and unless this is dealt with he is likely to develop gingivitis, which is the first stage of gum disease and shows as redness along the gum-line which can bleed on pressure and on eating. Tartar reacts with the saliva and forms plaque which adheres to the teeth and slowly pushes the gums back to expose more of the teeth. This plaque needs to be removed by your vet otherwise the condition will worsen until the bone of the jaw begins to erode, which then leaves the teeth less stable and likely to be lost. Your dog will also have halitosis, or bad breath, a sure sign that he needs mouth and dental care.
There are two ways of dealing with the plaque on his teeth: treatment and prevention. Your vet will give him a tooth cleaning under anesthetic, or you can help prevent the build up of plaque by getting your dog used to having his teeth cleaned at home. Your vet will advise on the most suitable brush and paste and you may be able to use a finger brush which will give you more control when cleaning. If you can get your dog used to you exploring his mouth from a very early age you will have a much better chance of keeping his teeth clean and healthy for as long as possible. Your vet may also suggest dental biscuits which will have a slightly abrasive action and keep the teeth clean.
One of the most common problems is crack or fracture, usually acquired by biting on very hard objects. Not only is this painful because the nerve is exposed, but a crack or break will provide a direct route for infection which can lead to an abscess. More seriously, infection can reach the bloodstream and can result in conditions such as heart or kidney disease.
Abscesses and ulcers can also be caused by misaligned dentition or a chipped or worn tooth rubbing against the inside of the mouth. Jaw and tooth misalignment are most commonly seen in over-bred dogs, but occasionally appear in young dogs who have been pulling hard on sticks or other toys in play.