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Published: Jan 18, 2012

Many people believe that dogs' mouths are cleaner than their own, but this is typically not the case. In fact, VCA Animal Hospitals reports that more than 80% percent of canines 3 years and older likely have some sort of dental issues—including periodontal disease, which is one of the most common canine diseases.

Periodontal disease is a term used to describe inflammation and infection of the tissues surrounding the tooth.  When tartar builds up on a dog’s teeth, the gums become irritated and often infected and the gum tissue will begin to recede, according to VCA. If the issue is ignored, eventually the tooth will become loose and eventually fall out.  This condition can be painful for a canine as the sensitive root and bony tooth socket will be exposed.  The infection also persists in the gum tissue and this can lead to local mouth infections.  Bacteria can also be absorbed into the blood stream and be carried to other organs—such as the kidneys, liver and heart—and cause damage.

"There is a lot of misinformation out there regarding a pet's oral health," said Dr. Jan Bellows, the new president of the American Veterinary Dental College, in a press release. "Dogs' mouths are certainly not cleaner than a human's. Dogs often carry a variety of germs and bacteria in their mouths that stem from buildup of plaque and tartar.  Many pet owners believe that any type of chewing is good for their dogs, but tooth fractures are a common occurrence in pets."

The best way to prevent dental issues is to perform daily toothbrushing and take your dog to the veterinary hospital for regular dental checkups. Proper dental cleaning involves giving shots to dogs of anesthesia so the vet can safely perform a thorough cleaning.