DENTAL & GUM
© copyright, Tia Resleure, Houndstooth and Nail
Note: There are numerous demo photos at the end of this article.
Greyhounds, like many other toy breeds, are notoriously prone to
Contributing factors are a long narrow skull with tight lips and
a dry mouth. Dog saliva is alkaline and contains antibacterial enzymes.
The normal bacterial flora which lives in the dog's mouth helps
keep harmful bacteria from flourishing(1) but
not a lot of this will come into contact with the outer gum line. The
IG's tight lips will hold food particles against the gum line until
not a Show Dog versus Pet Dog grooming issue nor is it fanatical
to your dog's needs. It's a serious health issue with
this breed which you should be willing to take responsibility for
daily basis. (Inflammation of the gums was listed as
the most common breed heath problem in the 1993
IGCA Health Survey) This knowledge
you that an IG isn't really the breed for
you or help
the number of IGs in your household.
There is no magic number to this
people can't manage to care for the teeth of one IG and some have
no problem caring for the daily dental needs of 7-10 IGs. (This
number could be greater but I haven't yet met that individual.) A
responsible breeder or rescue rep should not
only stress the importance of daily dental care but be able
and willing to
teach you how to properly brush your dog's teeth and train
your dog to accept brushing. They
should be providing follow-up counsel to be sure that you
are comfortable with the procedure.
rule of thumb is this: Brush DAILY for excellent
oral health. Brush every other day for only mediocre dental
every 3 days and you WILL get tartar formation. The first several
times you miss a 3rd day of brushing the tartar won't be visible
but it will be forming and given time, it will darken.
Brush for a few minutes each day, alternating between MaxiGuard
(or another unflavoured or mint flavor canine toothpaste) and, when necessary, a canine
(an antibacterial agent) like Enzadent. When the mouth is perfectly healthy I recommend
using only MaxiGuard daily. If you notice the beginning of a gum problem such as bleeding
or inflammation or detachment, you can use the chlorhexidine solution daily (or as a periodic preventative measure where permanent recession is evident) until the problem
subsides. Prolonged use of products containing chlorhexidine can cause
yellowing of the teeth which would not be desirable in a young show dog.
flavoured toothpaste only makes cleaning the teeth more difficult
because the dog
will want to lick more.
best to use a small dog or cat toothbrush. Finger brushes & big
dog tooth brushes are too large to get all the way to the very back
teeth of an IG. Some people prefer dental wipes, which are
great for young dogs, but I don't believe they do as good a job between
teeth, in crevasses or along the gum line. Some people swear
by electric toothbrushes but be aware that it can be more difficult
to train dogs to accept this and you need to be careful
to use so much pressure that you damage delicate gums.
pet supply store might
have what you need just be sure that the paste isn't a "tasty" beef
or poultry flavour. This will only encourage the dog to lick a lot,
making efficient brushing more
difficult. Mint flavour is not tasty to the dog and makes their breath
Be sure to use
lukewarm water for rinsing the toothbrush.
should be done gently and with the confident and firm attitude of
am not going to hurt you but we are going to do this" and
thinking "don't be silly this doesn't hurt, now cut it out,
this is important". Your IG doesn't have to love this
procedure but must learn to accept it. It's a fact of life. Be sure
to PRAISE whenever the dog is behaving!
Begin these sessions
when you have time to go slow but keep at it until you are finished.
Do not attempt the training if you are feeling frustrated or impatient.
training your dog as adult teeth become fully erupted. Be
aware that intensive and/or excessive mouth handling while the adult
are erupting and the puppy is teething is pointless
can create a dog that will always resent having it's mouth handled. Gently
lifting the lips and touching the gums of a young puppy is generally
enough to have it accept later
mouth handling. As the adult teeth become fully erupted you
can start gently wiping them with a moistened gauze pad.
advise waiting for all of the adult teeth to be fully and completely
dental care because I have seen several IGs that had to have adult
of age. These dogs didn't have "genetically bad teeth"
unless you think that the genetic structure that defines a pretty
and houndy IG head is bad. Certainly some IGs seem
to have teeth that you can neglect a bit longer since their teeth
less crowded and in larger skulls but all IGs will benefit from daily
attention to dental hygiene. If you don't want a breed that
requires this level of attention you might
that has a head like a Fox Terrier.
This structural propensity to
gum disease is not to be confused with the very real problem of enamel
hypoplasia that has been seen in IGs. Enamel hypoplasia(2) is
a defect in
that usually occurs during tooth development. Formation of the dental
enamel is disrupted, leading to inadequate or absent mineralization
of the the dental enamel. Causes can be due to a number of issues
occurring while the the teeth are developing, such as: distemper,
trauma and inflammation of the permanent tooth bud, systemic infections,
parasite infection, endocrine problems and excessive fluoride in
the drinking water. This leaves the enamel weak and pitted, causing
rapid dental wear and yellowing and even greater propensity to tartar
build-up. Full dental restoration or bi-yearly dental sealant may
be applied. The critical need for daily brushing is further
amplified by the presence of this condition.
while the dog is in a prone position will not only be easier, but
help with training your dog to accept a standing dental. I
do the dog's nails while they are prone for this same reason.
the key to success is learning to restrain your dog in such a way
can't get loose from your firm grip. Dog that are allowed to
flail and/or get loose are more inclined to build up a certain level
of hysteria and/or determination to struggle. Think of a native
American infant in a papoose: keeping them held snugly will
give them a sense of security and keep them calmer!
To get your
dog down on his/her side in the first place, hold the dog firmly
your chest and lower the dog to your side (or lap) while still against
your chest. Once the dog is completely down (sandwiched between
your side, or lap, and chest) put your hand on his shoulder and lift
your body away from the dog.
Standing (anesthesia-free) dentals should be done as needed
but not as a substitute for daily brushing. Studies
have shown that manually removing plaque daily with a brush is the
best way to keep your dog's gums healthy.(3) Monthly
or bi-monthly scaling instead of brushing gives you a false sense
security because, while the teeth may look reasonable or even perfectly
lovely, it just isn't healthy for the gums, roots and jaw bone
to have bacteria routinely sitting along the
line. You might get away
with this for a while, but as the dog gets older it
speed as the dog ages. If you notice inflamed or receding gums
(commonly on the front teeth) or
odor (bad breath is NOT normal) go to your vet and have the mouth checked
suggesting that you should avoid an anesthesia dental when necessary
is foolish and costly to normalize yearly anesthesia dentals
to avoid the responsibility of daily teeth brushing. Most vets won't
want to knock out a dog with anesthesia for minor tartar accumulation
with someone capable of performing a standing dental will not only
get the teeth clean before they become a problem but can
help point out areas that you aren't brushing well enough.
are willing to deal with standing dentals. It requires great
patience and a certain amount of natural talent to scale a dogs teeth
are awake. It's not just something you can learn by taking a class. Not
only is it an impossible procedure for many veterinary personnel
to perform but cuts into clinic profit margins as well.
years ago a handful of people were getting a lot of press for having
and skill. Consequently a law was created to make scaling teeth
at the gum line an Official Veterinary Procedure. This coincided
nicely with advances in specialization of veterinary dentistry. (The
Board Certified Specialist is specially trained to perform procedures
such as periodontal surgery, root canal therapy and orthodontics.) Current
law will allow for standing dentals to only be performed under the
supervision of a veterinarian. Let your vet know that you would
like them to at least be open to trying standing dentals. If
you have developed the skill to keep your dog restrained for brushing
ask that your vet to let you restrain your own dog while he/she scales
the teeth. It can't hurt to request that your vet try to find someone
who could provide this service for their clinic.
ask your vet about using a stronger chlorhexidine solution for minor
vets will have 2% chlorhexidine gluconate concentrate on hand that
can be diluted to .20% and applied to the gum line after brushing.
You should apply this with a very fine syringe or a soaked Q-tip.
the whole mouth as you want to discourage ingestion.
must always be followed by an application of polish to seal the enamel
quicker plaque build up on a rough surface. Be sure that
whoever is performing the dental is polishing as well!
problems (such as loose teeth, extensive gum recession, serious plaque
on the inside of teeth, etc.) are going on, your dog will need to
be put under anesthesia. If your dog is older and you are just
learning to care properly for your dog's teeth you might need to
start your new dental regime after a thorough anesthesia dental.
to have your vet or canine dental hygienist examine your dog's teeth and mouth thoroughly on
a bi-yearly or yearly basis. As you become experienced at caring for your
IG's teeth you will be able to hold his mouth open for the vet as
s/he exams the mouth. I mention this as I have been hearing
with greater frequency about (dental specialists) vets who won't
do an oral exam unless the dog is anesthetized.
of daily dental care include strengthening the bond you have
with your dog and learning to detect early signs of
oral disease which could be an indication of more serious
impending health problems. It's also very likely that your
dog may NEVER need an anesthesia dental if brushing is
Dental chews and
toys, hard biscuits and special dental diets can certainly help maintain
optimum oral hygiene but should not be considered a reasonable substitute for
daily teeth brushing.
1. Carson, DG and Giffin,
JM: Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook. pg.147, 1987
2. Shipp, AD and Fahrenkrug, P: Practitioners'
Guide to Veterinary Dentistry. pg.76, 1992
3. Harvey, CE: Periodontal Disease;
Diagnosis and Treatment. paragraph 4,1995