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Dental Care

Poodle Dental Care

Poodle having teeth cleaned

Overview

One of the most important parts of taking care of a Poodle is taking care of your dog's teeth. Not longer than about a decade ago, owners and veterinarians believed that a "dog took care of their own teeth". This is not true. This breed is particularly prone to developing dental issue. Without proper dental care:
  • Plaque quickly develops and clings to teeth, eating away at enamel
  • Within 3 to 5 days, it begins to harden into tartar
  • This can travel under the gum line, often turning into gingivitis (inflammation of the gums)
  • This often goes hand and hand with periodontal disease (infections around the teeth)
When periodontal disease begins to develop, this can very easily move from the Poodle's mouth to the liver, heart and other vital organs via the dog's bloodstream
  • Infections can be fatal if not treated
  • Rotten, decayed teeth will loosen and eventually fall out, but not without pain and issues such as difficulty eating

A Word on Missing Teeth / Misaligned Teeth

Unfortunately, mostly due to a lack of proper dental care, up to 80% of Poodles have periodontal disease by the age of 3 years old...and this can lead to missing teeth, as a tooth will become loose and then fall out when the infected gum can no longer hold the tooth intact. 

It should be noted that many clubs including the AKC will make allowances for 1 or 2 missing teeth, however in most cases 3 or more missing teeth, particularly if in a row, will disqualify a Poodle from conformation events.

Misaligned teeth is a completely different issue. While misaligned bites due to too short or too long upper or lower jaws may be due to genetics, misaligned teeth often occurs if adult canines grow in too rapidly, when milk teeth are still intact. This can throw off the entire line of the Poodle's teeth.

An owner can help the proper alignment of the bite by encouraging the top incisors to come out first.

Some points to note:
  • If the upper permanent teeth are coming in to place well before the bottom incisors they will hold the bottom ones in better position.
  • If they come in at relatively the same time, there may be a crashing of the upper and lower permanent teeth. Instead of meshing nicely (the top slightly over the bottom teeth) the bite could become undershot.
You can help encourage the upper incisors to come out first by gently wiggling them if they are loose. This is done by gently pushing on the teeth with your fingers, 1-2 times per day. Please note that this must be done gently... if the roots have a strong grip on the teeth, you cannot force them to come out. All a Poodle owner can do is to carefully encourage the teeth with a bit of gentle wiggle motion. If the adult tooth is clearly erupting next to a milk tooth that will not budge, it is recommended to bring your Poodle to the vet who can easily pull out the baby tooth to make room for the emerging one. If this is done soon enough, it may slide into place.

The Age to Start Brushing Your Poodle's Teeth

Your Poodle will be ready for dental care beginning at 2 months old. Don't worry! You will not be brushing their teeth at this age, however all owners should begin at this young age to start the process of training your Poodle to become accustomed to having their teeth touched.

Starting at a young age allows your Poodle to:
  • Become used to the feeling of having his teeth touch
  • Learn to sit still while you provide dental care
  • Learn that dental care is part of his daily schedule well before teething begins
Poodle with tooth brush
Brushing your Poodle's teeth should become a daily part of your normal schedule, just as feeding, going for walks, etc. This should not be something that is easily forgotten! If you begin the very first day that you bring your Poodle home, choose 1 time of the day to devote to dental care and do so each and every day....

You will be doing a great service to your Poodle and sparing your dog much discomfort. Many owners wonder what to do if they bring home an adolescent, adult or even a senior Poodle.

The answer is that no matter what age of your Poodle becomes a family member, dental care should begin immediately. We will discuss how to train your Poodle to become accustomed to dental cleanings and the proper way to provide care. 

How to Begin

As stated above, dental care should begin immediately, no matter what the age of your Poodle. If you have an older Poodle and you have not been providing dental care, please bring your Poodle to the veterinarian for a "Full Dental". 

Once the veterinarian has diagnosed and resolved any issues and has performed a full cleaning, you can then start the process of cleaning at home. It is never too late for dental care to begin. With that being said, we must repeat that it is best to start when your Poodle is a young puppy - The 1st steps can be done for a puppy as young as 2 months old.

Step 1 - Scheduling. Choose a time of the day that you wish to designate as "teeth time". It has no great bearing on whether this is in the morning or at night. The important element is that you choose a time that will best fit into your schedule. You may find that providing dental care right before daily play time works wonderful. Your Poodle will begin to think that behaving nicely during "teeth time" equals fun play afterward.

Step 2 - Touching. You will want to begin by simply allowing your Poodle to become used to the feeling of having his or her teeth touched. You will not be using any brushes or paste for this step. Young puppies and even older dogs will not understand this at first. They may think that you are playing a game, or they may do their best to wiggle away.    

It is important to be patient. However, you will find that by sitting on the floor, with your Poodle on your lap (tummy facing up), with your leg supporting your dog's head, your left hand 's thumb gently holding the mouth open and your right hand touching the teeth works best. 

At this stage, simply use your finger (be careful about long fingernails) to softly rub each tooth. Make sure to touch all teeth, especially the back molars. This only needs to last for 1-2 minutes. Be sure to do this every day, without fail. This step should be done for 2-3 weeks. 

It is your Poodle who will often tell you when they are ready for the next step; you will notice that as each day goes by, your Poodle wiggles less and less...until they reach a point of just "giving up" and allowing you to touch the teeth. 

No matter whether it is a struggle to reach that point or if your Poodle adapts the 1st day...be sure to offer soothing words while doing this, and great words of praise and perhaps a small, healthy treat when done.

Step 3 - Paste. Before you move on to the other steps, now is the time to introduce toothpaste. It is extremely important to never use human toothpaste. Because a Poodle (or any dog breed) cannot "rinse and spit", a good portion of the paste may be swallowed. For this reason, human toothpaste must never be used, as it can be toxic to a dog that swallows it. While this is true for all dogs, this is particularly true for toy Poodles and miniature Poodles.  Though enough will adversely affect a Standard as well. In addition, you will find that your Poodle loves the meat flavored dog toothpaste much better than they would a minty human toothpaste.

Simple add a small dollop of the paste to your finger and then rub it gently on each tooth. When you are done, use a small, soft, damp cloth to wipe off as much of the paste as you can. It is perfectly fine for your Poodle to swallow some of the paste when you are using canine toothpaste.
dog finger brush teeth cleaner
Step 4-  Finger Brush. Now that your Poodle is used to having his or her teeth touched, it is time to switch from your finger to a canine dental finger brush (as pictured to the left). This is a soft rubber "brush" that slips over your finger. It has small knobs that will "brush" the teeth. 

Go very gently, as the canine finger tooth brush is harder and less pliable than your finger. Be sure to add a small dab of canine toothpaste and spend the same 1-2 minutes, each day going over all of your Poodle's teeth. This step should be done for 1-2 weeks, once your Poodle is used to having this canine finger brush in their mouth, a full sized canine toothbrush will not be a drastic change.
Step 5 - Full cleanings with a brush. This is the last step to daily dental care for your Poodle. There are some important elements to keep in mind:
  • Use a quality toothbrush; 3-sided brushes work best and make sure it is sized correctly for your Poodle
  • Put the canine toothpaste between the bristles, as opposed to on top of them - This allows more of the paste to touch your Poodle's teeth
  • You will want to hold the brush at a slight angle to scrub the gums well
  • A good, solid 5 minutes will be sufficient for these daily cleanings
  • Begin with the top teeth and then clean the bottom teeth
Note: If you are not sure which products are best for your Poodle, you may wish to look to "Grooming" in the Poodle Specialty Shoppe.

Professional Cleanings

While daily cleanings are very important, professional cleanings are still needed. Brushings at home will help to prevent the buildup of tarter and to keep the gums healthy. Professional cleanings remove the buildup of plague. Professional cleanings also allow the veterinarian to take x-rays in order to determine any issues.

Toy and miniature Poodles tend to have more dental problems than standards. One of the problems peculiar to the smaller Poodles is receding gums. Your veterinarian may prescribe the antibiotic antirobe to help prevent receding gums. If you choose to perform a monthly scraping of your Poodle's teeth, this can be helpful as professional cleanings may then only need to be done every few years, as opposed to once a year.

Just about all dogs are sedated when a veterinarian performs a full dental and this is the main reason why you may prefer to handle scrapings at home. Whenever anesthesia is used, there is always a risk, therefore if your Poodle only needs to have this done every few years instead of 1 time per year, this is best.

Red Flags

An abscessed tooth is the most common and most serious issue that a Poodle can have. However, there are many issues that may occur, keep a close eye for the beginning signs of the following:

Take your Poodle to the vet if you notice:
  • Red gums
  • Swollen gums
  • Bleeding from the gums
  • Teeth that appear to be growing crooked
  • Your Poodle seems to be in pain when eating
  • Extreme bad breath
  • A cracked tooth
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