The most common underlying cause of tooth loss in an adult dog is periodontal disease. It’s normal, and adorable, when puppies lose their first teeth.
Adult dogs, however, need to have healthy teeth and gums for the rest of their lives.
So what does it mean if an adult dog loses a tooth?
The 3 most common causes of tooth loss in adult dogs include periodontal disease, tooth resorption, and dental trauma. These causes are discussed in greater length in this post.
Unfortunately, periodontal disease can cause secondary diseases and complications. Keep reading to learn more about periodontal disease, and why it could cause your adult dog’s teeth to fall out.
Caring for Adult Dog’s Teeth (including Senior Dogs)
Caring for an adult dog’s teeth is vital for maintaining good dental health. Regularly brushing your dog’s teeth is a fantastic start, but it doesn’t necessarily mean your dog will avoid periodontal disease in his or her senior years.
Caring for your dog’s teeth involves a few things, including:
- Brushing your dog’s teeth
- Scheduling your adult dog for a professional dental cleaning
- Watch what they eat.
- Provide your adult dog with appropriate chew toys that are less likely to split or crack. This can be a choking hazard.
The following is a detailed explanation of the list above:
Get a Professional Dental Cleaning for Your Dog
If you’ve never brushed your dog’s teeth before, or if you started to but gradually stopped, it might be time for a professional cleaning.
Brushing your dog’s teeth removes plaque and bacteria from the surface of the teeth. Brushing alone won’t, however, remove any thick buildup of tartar that has already accumulated.
The best way to deal with that is to schedule your dog for a professional teeth cleaning.
The cleaning process
The cleaning process typically begins with a physical examination of the dog’s mouth. This is to evaluate the overall health of the teeth and gums. X-rays will also be taken to assess the condition of the teeth below the gum line.
Before your dog is anesthetized, the veterinarian may request blood work to ensure your dog is fit enough to undergo surgery.
Special instruments are used to clean away tartar buildup from the teeth and gum line. Any necessary extractions are performed at this time.
The teeth are then polished to smooth any rough areas that can attract bacteria and cause future plaque buildup.
Applying a sealant
The veterinarian may apply a fluoride treatment to help strengthen the teeth and reduce the risk of future dental problems.
After the procedure, your dog will be closely monitored in recovery.
Unless there are complications, dogs are typically allowed to go home on the same day. Keep in mind that your dog may still be a little woozy or nauseous after coming out of general anesthesia.
Professional dental cleaning is not a cure for gum disease.
Professional dental cleanings for dogs can help reduce the risk of your dog developing periodontal disease (or gum disease). They can also help identify early signs of gum disease and reverse gingivitis.
Dogs typically get their permanent teeth between 3 and 7 months of age. Puppies start losing their deciduous teeth (puppy teeth) during this time, just as the adult (permanent) teeth come through. It’s not unusual for puppies to experience discomfort during the teething process.
Gum disease can develop once the adult teeth are in. Unfortunately, tooth decay can begin at an early age in dogs if their dental health isn’t cared for.
Not all dogs are candidates for dental surgery.
In order for a dog to be put under anesthesia safely, he or she needs to be in good physical health. Sometimes, especially in senior dogs, the veterinarian may choose not to perform the surgery.
Unfortunately, this leaves the senior dog with a worsening condition that can only be managed as best as possible.
Root Canal for Dogs
If your dog has a tooth that can be saved, the veterinary dentist may perform a root canal.
For this procedure, the infected or damaged pulp is removed from the pulp chamber (inside the tooth). Then, the space is filled with a special material to prevent further infection.
In some cases, a veterinary specialist is required to do a root canal.
Brush Your Dog’s Teeth
Once your dog has had a professional cleaning, and the veterinarian has given you the all-clear, you can resume brushing your dog’s teeth.
This will help slow the accumulation of further plaque buildup.
You’ve probably read this before, but always use a toothpaste specially formulated for pets. The problem with human toothpaste is that it can contain an artificial sweetener called Xylitol. Xylitol is very harmful for dogs.
Brushing your adult dog’s teeth between professional cleanings is a great way to help reduce the risk of dental problems later in life.
Provide Quality Made Dental Chews
Dental chews can help clean your dog’s teeth and promote healthy chewing habits. Look for products specifically made for dogs. Always supervise your dog when eating chew toys to prevent choking.
Watch What Your Dog Eats
Some foods and treats and be harmful to your dog’s teeth. These could include hard bones, sugary treats, and table scraps.
Three Common Reasons for Tooth Loss in Adult Dogs
Dogs can have missing or loose tooth due to trauma and injury. These dogs don’t necessarily have periodontal disease. Only a dentist can make that diagnosis.
According to the American Veterinary Dental Society (AVDS), periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition affecting adult dogs and cats. An estimated 80% of dogs show clinical signs of the disease by the age of three!
As dogs age, the likelihood of them developing gum disease increases.
1. Periodontal Disease (Gum Disease)
Signs of dental issues in dogs can include a number of things including:
- Bad breath
- Swollen or bleeding gums
- Missing teeth
- Loose teeth
- Difficulty eating or chewing
- Excessive drooling
- Discolored teeth
- Reddened gums
- Pawing at the side of the face
- Swelling under the eye could indicate a tooth abscess
Complications of Gum Disease in Dogs
Severe dental disease in dogs can cause secondary illness. The reason for this has to do with the bacteria and inflammation associated with periodontal disease.
Bacteria can spread through the bloodstream and travel to other organs. This leaves the dog at risk of developing kidney, liver, or heart disease.
Painful to Eat
If you’ve ever had a toothache, you know what it’s like to try to eat your favorite foods. You may even end up pushing the food to one side of your mouth to avoid the pain.
When a dog experiences this kind of mouth pain, he or she may avoid food. This can lead to malnutrition and weight loss.
Sadly, this just sets the dog up for future infections and illnesses.
If it’s painful for your dog to eat, talk to the veterinarian about switching to wet food. Another option is to soak kibble in warm water until it softens enough for your dog to eat it pain-free.
2. Tooth Resorption
Tooth resorption is a process in which the body breaks down and reabsorbs the tooth structure. This causes the tooth loss in some dogs. Although the cause isn’t fully understand, it’s thought to be related to inflammation or immune-system dyfunction.
3. Dental Trauma
Dental trauma means the dog has experienced an injury to the mouth. This could be caused by anything from a fall to a car accident.
Trauma can cause the tooth to become loose or dislodged. Injury can also occur to the surrounding tissues and bone. In some cases, the tooth can be saved with prompt veterinary care.
To sum it up, there are a few reasons why your adult dog’s teeth are falling out.
Your dog could have injured the tooth while playing. He may have caused the tooth to loosen after biting down on a bone that was too hard, or he may be developing periodontal disease.
The best thing pet parents can do for their dogs is to schedule a dental cleaning. This will allow the veterinarian to assess whether gum disease is present. The most common cause of loose teeth in dogs is periodontal diseases.
Dogs are really good at hiding pain.
That means we pet parents have to really stay alert to any changes in our dogs behavior.
If your dog suddenly won’t eat, has really bad breath, leaves blood on their toys, or shows any other signs of pain, get in touch with your veterinarian ASAP.
Nobody wants to be in pain all of the time, especially dogs. Incorporating at-home dental hygiene with professional cleanings will go a long way in ensuring your dog’s quality of life for years to come.
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DVM, CAVCA, CVA, Julie Buzby. “Is My Dog Too Old for Anesthesia?” Dr. Buzby’s ToeGrips for Dogs, 24 Feb. 2022, toegrips.com/senior-dog-anesthesia.
“Periodontal Disease in Dogs.” Small Door Veterinary, www.smalldoorvet.com/learning-center/medical/periodontal-disease-in-dogs. Accessed 7 May 2023.
“Periodontal Disease in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment.” Periodontal Disease in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment, www.lakecross.com/site/blog-huntersville-vet/2020/07/22/periodontal-disease-dogs-symptoms-treatment. Accessed 7 May 2023.