Give our teeth attention or it’ll come back to bite you

February was National Pet Dental Month and it got me thinking about the lunacy of some humans’ insistence on ignoring their dogs’ teeth. I’ve decided to clear things up once and for all by breaking it all down for the meek-minded.

Why a dog’s mouth gets so disgusting. I’ll start with the obvious. We eat anything in sight. We lick our dirty body parts and occasionally eat our own poop. We practically breathe bacteria into our mouths. A dog’s mouth is more alkaline than a human’s, which plays a big part in plaque formation. As the plaque thickens, our overabundance of bacteria multiplies, making us five times more likely to get gum disease than humans. So yes – dog dental care is an important part of your dog’s health.

Bad breath means bad things. Use your common sense. When your dog’s mouth stinks, that means there are a lot of bacteria growing in it. More than likely it’s plaque buildup or gum disease, but nasty smelling mouths can also mean other health issues. Especially if the odor is unusual – sweet-smelling breath could mean diabetes, and pee-smelling breath could mean kidney problems. So don’t ignore it. Get your dog to the vet.

Check a cracked or fractured tooth. In case you didn’t know, dogs like to chew on bones. Hard bones, you know the kind that would break a human tooth in a heartbeat. Occasionally, we also attempt to eat rocks or pretty much anything that catches our eyes. When a human cracks a tooth, he/she immediately goes to the dentist. Same thing applies for dogs. An untreated cracked tooth can cause chronic pain or lead to other issues.

Your dog’s not going to tell you when a tooth hurts. We are tough as nails and we can’t talk. Look for other behavioral changes like pawing at the mouth, a change in eating habits. Drooling more than normal, bleeding gums and mouth swelling are also good indicators that something is wrong.

Here’s how to clean your dog’s teeth (the dummy version). First, buy a dog toothbrush and toothpaste. Then use those products to brush your dog’s teeth. Try to do it every day if possible, especially if you have one of those flat-faced dogs like a Pug (they are more susceptible to plaque build-up). But at the very least, brush them once a week. If you’re a first timer, make sure to break in your dog slowly to get him/her used to the process. Use rewards so your dog doesn’t run every time you bring out the toothbrush. The ASPCA has some easy techniques to follow, so do some research to figure out the best method for your dog.

Yes, some vets will rip you off. It’s important to get your dog to the vet if you suspect a dental health issue. But we’ve all heard the rumors – vets selling unnecessary shots, tests, medications and treatments. So don’t be an idiot. Do your homework. Get a second opinion if you sense a scam. There are plenty of low-cost, quality pet dental places and a simple Google search might help you find one.

So the next time your dog licks your face with its bacteria-infested tongue, please don’t ignore the odor.