Periodontal disease, which affects most dogs by the time they turn three, can impact a dog's overall health in addition to his or her oral health. Unaddressed oral infections can turn into abscesses and ultimately systemic infections, which raise a dog's risk of developing serious illnesses like heart disease. It is therefore important for owners to implement oral care into their dogs' regular routine.
Experts recommend that owners visually inspect dogs' gums once a week. The gums should be pink and firm rather than red or white and swollen, and the teeth should be free of visible tartar. Dental treats and chews can help to prevent the buildup of the tartar that turns into plaque.
Many owners also choose to brush their dogs' teeth. Some do so using a gauze-wrapped finger, while others purchase a toothbrush made especially for dogs. In either case, any toothpaste used should be formulated specifically for canines. Gentle brushing, with a focus on where the outside of the tooth touches the cheek, tends to remove the most tartar and thus can offer the greatest benefit.