DENTAL & GUM
By Tia Resleure ©2002-11
(Tia can be found at Houndstooth & Nail, in the SF Bay Area!)
Note: There are numerous demo photos at the end of this article.
Greyhounds, like many other toy breeds, are notoriously prone to
gum disease. Contributing factors are a long narrow skull with
tight lips and a dry mouth. Dog saliva is alkaline and contains
antibacterial enzymes. The normal bacterial flora which
lives in the dog's mouth helps keep harmful bacteria from flourishing(1) but
not a lot of this will come into contact with the outer gum line. The
IGs tight lips will hold food particles against the gum line until
it is removed by you.
not a Show Dog versus Pet Dog grooming issue nor is it fanatical
over-attention to your dog's needs. It's
a serious health issue with this breed which you should
be willing to take responsibility for on a daily basis. (Inflamation
of the gums was listed as the most common breed heath problem
in the 1993
IGCA Health Survey) This knowledge might convince you that an
IG isn't really the breed for you or help you to set a reasonable
limit to the number of IGs in your household. There is no magic number
to this limit: Some people can't manage to care for the teeth of
one IG and some have no problem caring for the daily dental needs
of 7-10 IGs. (This number could be greater but I haven't
yet met that individual.) A responsible breeder or rescue rep
should not only stress the importance of daily dental care but be able
and willing to teach you how to properly brush your dog's teeth
and train your dog to accept brushing. They should be providing
follow-up counsel to be sure that you are comfortable with
general rule of thumb is this: Brush DAILY for
excellent oral health. Brush every other day for only mediocre
dental heath. Brush every 3 days and you WILL get tartar
formation. The first several times you miss a 3rd day of brushing
the tartar won't be visible but it will be forming and
given time, it will darken.
Brush for a few minutes each day, alternating between MaxiGuard (or another
unflavoured or mint flavor canine toothpaste) and a canine oral solution containing
.12% chlorhexidine (an antibacterial agent) like Enzadent. When the mouth
is healthy I recommend using MaxiGuard daily and a solution with chlorhexidine
once every week or two. If you notice the beginning of a gum problem
such as bleeding or inflammation, you can use the chlorhexidine solution daily
until the problem subsides. Prolonged use of products containing chlorhexidine
can cause yellowing of the teeth which would not be desirable in a young show
flavoured toothpaste only makes cleaning the teeth more difficult
because the dog will want to lick more.
best to use a small dog or cat toothbrush. Finger brushes & big
dog tooth brushes are too large to get all the way to the very
back teeth of an IG. Some people prefer dental wipes, which are
great for young dogs, but I don't believe they do as good a job
between teeth, in crevasses or along the gum line. Some people
swear by electric toothbrushes be beware that it can be more difficult
to get the dog to accept and you need to be careful not to use
so much pressure that you damage delicate gums.
local pet supply store might have what you need just be sure that
the paste isn't a "tasty" beef or poultry flavour. This
will only encourage the dog to lick a lot, making efficient brushing
more difficult. Mint flavour is not tasty to the dog and makes
their breath fresher.
Be sure to use lukewarm water for rinsing the toothbrush.
Brushing should be done gently and with the confident and firm attitude of
- "I am not going to hurt you but we are going to do this" and
thinking "don't be silly this doesn't hurt, now cut it out, this is important". Your
IG doesn't have to love this procedure but must learn to accept it. It's a
fact of life. Be sure to PRAISE whenever the dog is behaving!
these sessions when you have time to go slow but keep at it until
you are finished. Do not attempt the training if you are feeling
frustrated or impatient.
Start training your dog as adult teeth become fully erupted. Be aware
that intensive and/or excessive mouth handling while the adult teeth are erupting
and the puppy is teething is pointless and can create a dog that will always
resent having it's mouth handled. Gently lifting the lips and touching
the gums of a young puppy is generally enough to have it accept later mouth
handling. As the adult teeth become fully erupted you can start gently
wiping them with a moistened gauze pad.
don't advise waiting for all of the adult teeth to be fully and
completely in before starting dental care because I have seen several
IGs that had to have adult incisors pulled at one year of age. These
dogs didn't have "genetically bad teeth" unless you think
that the genetic structure that defines a pretty and houndy IG
head is bad. Certainly some IGs seem to have teeth that you
can neglect a bit longer since their teeth may be less crowded
and in larger skulls but all IGs will benefit from daily attention
to dental hygiene. If you don't want a breed that requires
this level of attention you might be better off with a breed that
has a head like a Fox Terrier.
This structural propensity to gum disease is not to be confused with the very
real problem of enamel hypoplasia that has been seen in IGs. Enamel hypoplasia(2) is
a defect in the enamel that usually occurs during tooth development. Formation
of the dental enamel is disrupted, leading to inadequate or absent mineralization
of the the dental enamel. Causes can be due to a number of issues occurring
while the the teeth are developing, such as: distemper, trauma and inflammation
of the permanent tooth bud, systemic infections, massive parasite infection,
endocrine problems and excessive fluoride in the drinking water. This leaves
the enamel weak and pitted, causing rapid dental wear and yellowing and even
greater propensity to tartar build-up. Full dental restoration or bi-yearly
dental sealant my be applied. The critical need for daily brushing is
further amplified by the presence of this condition.
while the dog is in a prone position will not only be easier, but
will help with training your dog to accept a standing dental. I
do the dog's nails while they are prone for this same reason.
of the key to success is learning to restrain your dog in such
a way that he can't get loose from your firm grip. Dog that
are allowed to flail and/or get loose are more inclined to build
up a certain level of hysteria and/or determination to struggle. Think
of a native American infant in a papoose: keeping them held
snugly will give them a sense of security and keep them calmer!
get your dog down on his/her side in the first place, hold the
dog firmly against your chest and lower the dog to your side (or
lap) while still against your chest. Once the dog is completely
down (sandwiched between your side, or lap, and chest) put your
hand on his shoulder and lift your body away from the dog.
Standing (anesthesia-free) dentals should be done as needed but
not as a substitute for daily brushing. Studies
have shown that manually removing plaque daily with a brush is the best
way to keep your dog's gums healthy.(3) Monthly
or bi-monthly scaling instead of brushing gives you a false sense of
security because, while the teeth may look reasonable or even perfectly
lovely, it just isn't healthy for the gums, roots and jaw bone to have
bacteria routinely sitting along the gum line. You might get away with
this for a while, but as the dog gets older it will start to lose it's
teeth, and with increasing speed as the dog ages. If you notice inflamed
or receding gums (commonly on the front teeth) or an unpleasant odor
(bad breath is NOT normal) go to your vet and have the mouth checked
not suggesting that you should avoid an anesthesia dental when
necessary but it is foolish and costly to normalize yearly
anesthesia dentals to avoid the responsibility of daily teeth brushing.
Most vets won't want to knock out a dog with anesthesia for minor
tartar accumulation anyway. Working with someone capable
of performing a standing dental will not only get the teeth clean before they
become a problem but can help point out areas that you aren't brushing
vets are willing to deal with standing dentals. It requires
great patience and a certain amount of natural talent to scale
a dogs teeth while they are awake. It's not just something you
can learn by taking a class. Not only is it an impossible
procedure for many veterinary personnel to perform but cuts into
clinic profit margins as well.
years ago a handful of people were getting a lot of press for having
this patience and skill. Consequently a law was created to
make scaling teeth at the gum line an Official Veterinary Procedure.
This coincided nicely with advances in specialization of veterinary
dentistry. (The Board Certified Specialist is specially trained
to perform procedures such as periodontal surgery, root canal therapy
and orthodontics.) Current law will allow for standing dentals
to only be performed under the supervision of a veterinarian. Let
your vet know that you would like them to at least be open to trying
standing dentals. If you have developed the skill to keep
your dog restrained for brushing ask that your vet to let you restrain
your own dog while he/she scales the teeth. It can't hurt to request
that your vet try to find someone who could provide this service
for their clinic.
can ask your vet about using a stronger chlorhexidine solution
for minor infections. Most vets will have 2% chlorhexidine
gluconate concentrate on hand that can be diluted to .20% and applied
to the gum line after brushing. You should apply this with a very
fine syringe or a soaked Q-tip. Avoid flushing the whole mouth
as you want to discourage ingestion.
must always be followed by an application of polish to seal the
enamel and prevent quicker plaque build up on a rough surface. Be
sure that whoever is performing the dental is polishing as well!
serious problems (such as loose teeth, extensive gum recession,
serious plaque buildup on the inside of teeth, etc.) are going
on, your dog will need to be put under anaesthesia. If your
dog is older and you are just learning to care properly for your
dog's teeth you might need to start your new dental regime after
a thorough anesthesia dental.
sure to have your vet examine your dog's teeth and mouth thoroughly
on a yearly basis. As you become experienced at caring for
your IGs teeth you will be able to hold his mouth open for the
vet as s/he exams the mouth. I mention this as I have been
hearing with greater frequency about (dental specialists) vets
who won't do an oral exam unless the dog is anesthetized.
of daily dental care include strengthening the bond you have with
your dog and learning to detect early signs of oral disease which
could be an indication of more serious impending health problems.
It's also very likely that your dog may NEVER need an anaesthesia
dental if brushing is done thoroughly and daily.
chews and toys, hard biscuits and special dental diets can certainly help maintain
optimum oral hygiene but should not be considered a reasonable substitute for
daily teeth brushing.
1. Carson, DG and Giffin,
JM: Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook. pg.147, 1987
2. Shipp, AD and Fahrenkrug, P: Practitioners' Guide
to Veterinary Dentistry. pg.76, 1992
3. Harvey, CE: Periodontal
Disease; Diagnosis and Treatment. paragraph 4,1995