Surprisingly, 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 through out 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.
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 painful but cannot or will not show pain but once the cavity is treated, owners report the dog’s behavior is much improved. Many dogs are 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.
Dental Caries in Dogs