What To Know About Rotten Dog Teeth

Here’s how to fix tooth decay in dogs 🦷

You might occasionally check your dog’s mouth to make sure everything in there looks OK — but do you know exactly what to look for?

While rotten teeth might be obvious if they’re bleeding or falling out (gross, we know), there are other signs to look for before it gets so dramatic.

The Dodo reached out to Dr. Michelle Burch, a veterinarian at Paramount Pet Health, and Dr. Corinne Wigfall, a veterinarian working with SpiritDog Training, to learn more about rotten teeth in dogs and how to fix it.

Signs of rotten dog teeth

Rotten teeth (aka tooth decay) are caused by severe periodontal disease, which is the damage and destruction of the ligaments and bone that keep teeth in the mouth.

“In humans and pets, this is due to a bacterial infection in the form of plaque,” Dr. Burch told The Dodo. “The plaque tends to continue to accumulate, thicken and mineralize into calculus in our dogs.”

Signs of rotten teeth that owners might notice at home include:

  • Bad breath
  • Inflammation of the gum line
  • Recession of the gum over a tooth
  • Thick calculus on the tooth, which can be light brown, dark brown or gray
  • Excessive drooling or mild bleeding from the mouth in drool or after eating
  • Reduced appetite

How to treat rotten teeth in dogs

Dogs who are showing signs of rotten teeth need to have a veterinary oral examination and most likely a professional dental cleaning. “Professional cleanings will include dental X-rays to evaluate the damage under the gumline, removal of dental calculus and plaque, and extraction of teeth showing evidence of stage 3 or 4 periodontal disease,” Dr. Burch said.

While in some cases you can opt for a non-anesthetic dental cleaning, which is a less invasive type of dental care with little to no sedation, Dr. Burch doesn’t recommend that when your dog is in need of treatment for rotten teeth. “These procedures cannot fully evaluate the mouth or get a complete cleaning under the gum line,” Dr. Burch said.

After the dental cleaning and tooth removals, the remaining teeth will be polished and a sealant will be added for extra protection.

“You can then continue at-home dental care, such as tooth brushing, dental treats (in moderation), dental water additives or prescription dental diets,” Dr. Wigfall told The Dodo.

Additionally, your dog will need a yearly checkup and dental X-rays to watch for signs of disease in the teeth.

What happens if rotten teeth are left untreated

If you don’t seek medical attention for your dog’s rotten teeth, it can lead to all kinds of other issues, including:

His teeth can fall out

As the support loss occurs from periodontal disease, teeth can become loose, resulting in pain, and may even fall out.

“Tooth root abscesses (a pocket of pus caused by an infection) can also form that can lead to pain, pus draining in the mouth or swelling of the cheek near the eye,” Dr. Burch said.

Bacteria can spread through the body

Rotten teeth can not only result in local problems in the mouth, but they can also affect the rest of the body. According to Dr. Burch, the bacteria that surround the tooth root can gain access to the bloodstream (aka bacteremia) and cause infection.

“If these bacteria cross over into the bloodstream, they can travel to the heart and cause an infection in the valves of the heart,” Dr. Wigfall said. “The bacteria can also spread to other organs, such as the kidneys, and cause damage there, too.”

If you suspect that your dog might be developing bad teeth, check in with your vet to make sure everything can be taken care of before it gets too far.