We love our dogs and want them to be happy, carefree and healthy! Happy dog, happy life.

Vets say 85 percent of canines over age 4 have some form of gum disease. Other frequent teeth problems in dogs include crooked, cracked or loose teeth, an infection or an abscess.

You may not even know when your dog has oral discomfort. Signs to watch for are:

  • Changes to eating habits or loss of appetite, 
  • Unusual night awakenings, 
  • Rubbing the face against things or 
  • Facial swelling

Here are five common dental problems that dogs can face:

Gum Disease Check out your dog's toys to see if he leaves spots of blood on them after she's enjoyed a chew toy or vigorous playtime? This can be a sign of gum disease. Bleeding or swollen gums are a symptom of periodontal disease which is the most commonly diagnosed oral problem in dogs. The problems begin when plaque builds up on your dog's teeth and transforms into a brownish substance, known as tartar. When tartar moves under the gum line, red, puffy gums develop, called gingivitis. If left untreated, this progresses into periodontal disease, causing the gums to recede and lose their function. This can ultimately lead to tooth loss. Periodontal disease also introduces infection, which can travel in the bloodstream to affect other organs. Contributing factors include the reaction of the dog's immune system, age, diet and chewing habits. Routine dental care is the best defense.

Loose Teeth  In puppies, loose teeth are not a problem. Between 4 and 6 months old, your pup will have frequent loose teeth. By the time he's about 7 or 8 months old, he will have a new set of 42 adult teeth.

For an adult dog, a loose tooth can be a clue. It usually results from trauma to the mouth or from gum loss due to advanced periodontal disease. It may also be a sign of illness. Visit your vet if your adult dog has a loose tooth. The vet may do an X-ray to examine the tooth's root or conduct an overall exam to screen for health issues. In almost all cases, a loose tooth won't correct itself, so your vet may suggest an extraction.

Crooked Teeth Sometimes the adult dog teeth are crooked, or he may have a malocclusion which is a misalignment of the upper and lower jaw. If it's extreme, your dog may have difficulty chewing. If your dog's bite seems to be causing him problems such as eating, get your vet to take a look.  Whether their teeth are crooked or straight, all dogs are at risk of periodontal disease. In the next section, find out the best way to prevent red, inflamed gums.

Cracked Teeth A hearty chew is great for your dog’s oral hygiene but chewing the wrong object can cause him in dental problems. Rigid objects can break or crack a tooth. A broken or cracked tooth can also result from an impact injury, tugging games or too-rough play. With any type of cracked or broken tooth, the nerve of the tooth may become exposed, and that's painful. The tooth may become infected. Treatment will depend on how badly the tooth has been damaged, which usually requires an X-ray to evaluate. A broken tooth can be the gateway for a tooth root abscess.

Infection or Abscess A tooth root abscess is extremely painful. This can happen if the root of the tooth became exposed to bacteria perhaps from a crack or break, or from advanced gum damage due to periodontal disease which can cause an infection to set in. Signs that may indicate an abscess might be difficulty eating and facial swelling. It may look like her eye is infected or inflamed, due to the proximity of the tooth's roots to the eye.

Any time you suspect a problem, check with your vet before it gets worse.

Animal Care Center in Smyrna, GA, is owned and operated by Otto H. Williams, DVM. The veterinary practice specializes in complete healthcare for cats and dogs and offers services including preventative, surgical and nonsurgical care, internal medicine, grooming and boarding to Cobb County and surrounding cities such as Vinings, Marietta, Mableton and Sandy Springs. Call today at 770.438.2694 or request an appointment.