Dental disease is one of the most common medical conditions seen by veterinarians.  Over 68% of all dogs over the age of three are estimated to have some form of periodontal or dental disease.  The most common dental problems seen in dogs is periodontal disease.  Periodontal disease is a term used to describe inflammation or infection of the tissues surrounding the tooth.  Accumulation of tartar and calculus on the teeth causes gum recession around the base of the tooth.  Infection soon follows and the gums recede further, exposing sensitive unprotected tooth root surfaces and the bony tooth sockets.  Left untreated, the infection spreads deep into the tooth socket, destroying the bone.  Ultimately, the tooth loosens and falls out.

The best way to prevent tartar build-up is regular home care, particularly tooth brushing using a toothpaste that is specifically designed to be swallowed.  Human toothpaste should never be used in dogs.  Many human toothpastes and oral hygiene products contain xylitol, a sugar substitute that is safe for use in humans but highly toxic in dogs.  Also, the foaming products contain ingredients that are not intended to be swallowed and could cause internal problems if they are swallowed.

Special chew toys and treats may help reduce or delay tartar build-up.  Some pet foods have been specifically formulated as dental diets that mechanically assist in plaque removal.  Once tartar has formed, it will be necessary to remove it by professional scaling and polishing under general anesthesia.