Can my dog get cavities? You asked! Dogs can get cavities just like people! Cavities in dogs tend to happen on the flat, chewing teeth in the back of the mouth which are hard for pet parents to reach when they brush.
Cavities (also called caries) are caused by bacteria on teeth. The bacteria overgrows when it is exposed to a source of carbohydrates. Cavities happen more frequently in dogs that eat snacks throughout the day instead of two meals a day. Interesting, they are also more common in dogs that eat apples frequently. Some dogs drink only bottled water which is devoid of fluoride and that also increases the risk of cavities.
A cavity is the common term for dental decay and is from the Latin meaning rottenness.
The bacteria in the mouth release acids which causes the tooth to lose calcium and the tooth structure to disintegrate causing a painful hole. It is often difficult to find these lesions during a physical examination because they occur commonly on the back teeth. It is also difficult to detect pain in dogs with cavities as most owners report they are eating fine.
We suspect the pets are actually feeling pain but cannot or will not show pain but once the cavity is treated, owners report the dog’s behavior is much improved.
Many dogs get more playful, pick up toys they were ignoring and seem happier.
Early cavities can be detected during a dental cleaning when each tooth is examined for pits or fissures during the oral exam under anesthesia. The teeth are radiographed and the diagnosis is confirmed.
When a dog has a cavity, it is important to treat it to alleviate pain. The tooth is treated in a similar manner to people in that the cavity is cleaned out and smoothed and then restored with a very strong material to maintain the strength of the tooth.
Restoring the tooth will decrease the chance of infection, block the pathway to sensitivity, and help prevent gum disease.
Cavities are caused by bacteria fermenting carbohydrates on the tooth surface. This fermentation leads to the production of acids that demineralize the enamel and dentin. Following demineralization, the organic matrix of the tooth is digested by oral bacteria and/or white blood cells.
The health of the teeth is based on the constant exchange of minerals between enamel and oral fluids, so when there is prolonged retention of fermentable carbohydrates and bacterial plaque on the tooth surface, and this condition leads to a net loss of mineral, the tooth will be disposed to the development of caries.
Early cavities may be reversible through re-mineralization, but once the protein matrix collapses, the lesion is irreversible. Even if only one tooth has become irreversibly damaged, care must be taken to protect the remaining teeth, since dental surfaces in close contact with an established caries are at risk of developing a lesion as well.
Some of the inherent risk factors that will encourage the development of cavities are when the teeth are very tight together, resulting in smooth-surface caries and when deep pockets between the teeth and gums allow bacteria to gather.
Fermenting carbohydrates will take up residence in these pockets, inflicting damage low on the tooth, closer to the root. But, it is where the top and bottom teeth meet on the maxillary first molar, in the pit of the tooth, that dental caries most commonly develops.
Developmental grooves on the crown surface of the tooth, and deep pits where the teeth touch each other will dispose the tooth to pit-and-fissure cavities.
Overall health and diet play a role in the development of carries as well. Animals with poorly mineralized enamel, lower salivary pH, diets high in fermentable carbohydrates, and poor oral hygiene are all at risk of developing dental cavities.
So yes, your dog too can develop carries!