can dogs get cavities

Can Dogs Get Cavities and Other Dog Dental Questions

It takes about 48 to 72 hours for plaque to harden on a dog’s teeth. Can dogs get cavities? Yes, but pet parents may not even realize a cavity is present. The more oral bacteria clings to canine teeth without being removed or brushed away, the higher the likelihood of dental problems.

Years ago, veterinarians weren’t seeing as many dog cavities being diagnosed as they are today. Thanks to routine oral examinations and veterinary x-rays, more cavities are being diagnosed.

But why are dogs getting more cavities? Like people, cavities occur when bacteria on teeth contact carbohydrates in the food your pet eats. A reaction takes place that causes bacteria to make acid. If not cleared away, that acid erodes the enamel of teeth, de-mineralizes them, and decay occurs.

Human foods are generally high in sugar. Dogs have lower amounts of carbs in their food, especially if they eat moist foods and stay away from dry kibble. Less sugar means less bacteria to react with. However, more. and more dog treats are using sugar as a cheap filler, so read labels before you toss a treat to your pup.

In addition to understanding the process of how dogs get cavities and what can be done for them, there are many dog dental misconceptions in the real world. Let’s break down some of the most commonly asked dog dental questions. Do any of these answers surprise you?

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Can Dogs Get Cavities?

Dogs can get cavities, also called caries, but they are rare. When dogs do get cavities, the maxillary first molars are most commonly affected.

A typical cavity in a dog appears as a small, hard-to-see hole in the tooth’s enamel. Dogs don’t usually express pain from a cavity, so a pet parent may not realize a cavity is present.

Dogs are adept at hiding pain, so it may be difficult to know if a cavity is bothering him. Make a veterinary appointment if your dog shows any signs of discomfort when eating, chewing, playing, or drinking water.

Just like people, an x-ray of the teeth will show if the cavity damage is mild enough to save the tooth. If so, the cavity can be treated in a capacity similar to humans. High-speed drills, dentin bonding, polymer seal, composite filling, and sealants are used to fill a canine cavity.

80 percent of dogs show signs of periodontal disease by age two.

Today’s Veterinary Practice

Why Does My Dog’s Breath Smell?

The most common causes of dog breath are periodontal disease, bad oral hygiene, something stuck in the teeth, or something underlying in your dog’s gut.

Dogs with yellow, brown, or black ongoing staining are at risk of dental disease and gingivitis. Unremoved plaque can travel into the roots of your dog’s teeth, loosen the ligaments, and the teeth can become loose. At this point, bacteria enter the bloodstream.

Like people, when bacteria travel through the bloodstream to the heart, a condition such as endocarditis can occur.

If you wonder why your dog’s breath smells like fish, it could be from:

  • Dental disease and tartar buildup
  • Broken or abscessed teeth
  • Gastrointestinal disorders, such as GERD or acid reflux.
dog getting his teeth brushed

What Can I Do If My Dog Hates Teeth Brushing?

Some dogs do not like having their teeth brushed. It can be a struggle that some pet parents want no part of. Thankfully, Zymox Oratene’s line of enzyme-based oral care products can help.

I’ve been using Oratene Enzymatic Brushless Toothpaste Gel on my Cocker Spaniels for years. It contains no harmful additives, no Xylitol or artificial sugars, detergents or alcohol, and it can be applied without a toothbrush.

In addition to keeping teeth clean, Oratene eliminates odor-causing germs, relieves dry mouth, keeps gums clean and fresh, and promotes healthy teeth.

The patented LP3 enzyme system is recommended for dogs who need gentle, non-drying everyday oral care. It is pleasant tasting and inhibits plaque formation on your dog’s teeth.

Pro Tip: Make “teeth time” part of your dog’s bedtime routine. Get excited about the process and reward him with a high-value treat for being a good pup.

Get more tips on what to do if your dog hates his teeth brushed.

Do Dental Water Additives Help?

Canine dental water additives can be a regular, successful part of your dog’s dental routine. Not all dog water additives are created equal. Some products are dangerous, contain additives or harmful sweeteners, and can actually make your dog sick.

One of the most simple ways to take care of your dog’s teeth and breath is with Oratene’s Water Additive. This flavorless, safe liquid concentrate is added to fresh drinking water daily. Your dog drinks the water and gets periodontal health support in exchange.

You can feel good using this product because it contains no Xylitol, alcohol, chlorhexidine, detergents, or dyes.. Because it’s flavorless and won’t cause excessive salivation, you and your dog receive benefits.

Zymox dental care products

Why Do My Dog’s Jowls Stink?

Sometimes a smelly dog’s mouth has nothing to do with their teeth or breath.

 If you are diligently providing at-home dental care for your dog on a regular basis, seeing the veterinarian for regular oral checkups and examinations, and the smell still exists, it may not be a dental issue at all.

Lip fold dermatitis can rear its ugly head—and smell—and it must be brought under control. I keep my Cockers’ jowl hair trimmed closely and rely on Zymox topical cream to help with flare-ups.

I asked the folks at ZYMOX if I could use their topical cream on his fold, using caution not to get it in his mouth. It is a bitter taste, they shared, but it is safe to use on folds. Since it is recommended for hot spots, wounds, and skin infections, it makes sense that folds are included, too.

Within a few days, the stink and inflammation were both gone.

topical skin cream dog

When Do Puppies Get Their First Teeth?

Puppies are born without teeth. Is there anything cuter than a little puppy with pink gums nursing on his mama? Don’t even get us started on the sweet smell of puppy breath.

Puppy teeth generally erupt around two weeks of age. A full set of puppy teeth come in by eight to ten weeks. Puppies will have a total of 28 baby teeth before they start falling out to make way for adult permanent teeth.

The 28 puppy teeth are also called deciduous teeth or primary, milk, or baby teeth.

When Do Puppy Teeth Fall Out?

Puppy teeth generally fall out about one month after they show up. Most puppies lose their first set of teeth around three months of age. The incisors are the first to go.

Is There a Puppy Teething Timeline?

From the time a puppy is born until about two weeks of age, he has no teeth.

The incisors will be seen between two and four weeks, followed by premolars, molars, and canine teeth.

When he turns five to eight weeks old, all 28 baby teeth should be seen. Once he reaches about eight weeks of age, the milk teeth will begin falling out.

Between 12 and 16 weeks, the puppy’s adult teeth will start to come in, which will push the puppy teeth out. Of note, I’ve actually found some of my Cocker Spaniels’ puppy teeth on the carpeting.

Your puppy is “teething” at this stage, so you’ll want to give him safe chew toys to gnaw on to relieve pain.

Once your puppy hits six months of age or a bit older, all of his permanent teeth should be in place.

How Many Teeth Does An Adult Dog Have?

Like people, dogs have two sets of teeth in their lifetime. The secondary teeth of dogs are known as their permanent teeth.

Adult dogs have 42 permanent teeth. They have 20 teeth on the top jaw and 22 on the bottom.

Dogs have different types of teeth just like people. Dogs have incisors, canines, pre-molars, and molars.

Type of toothPurpose and Function
IncisorsSmall teeth found at the front, used for scraping
CaninesLong, pointed teeth behind the incisors that are used to tear meat apart
Pre-MolarsSharp-edged teeth behind the canines used to shred food
MolarsAt the back of the mouth, used to break down hard foods like kibble

Is Dog Teeth Cleaning Necessary?

Dental health is linked to overall health in dogs, just as it is in people. Brushing teeth daily removes plaque before it becomes tartar. Using a product like Oratene Brushless Toothpaste Gel helps with overall dental care in dogs.

Dogs should have their teeth cleaned upon the recommendation of a veterinarian. Dental x-rays should be taken prior to every dental cleaning to determine any issues ahead of time.

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) notes that 60 percent of a dog’s tooth is below the gumline. Pet parents can’t see that area. Dental cleanings should be done under anesthesia following safety guidelines.

Most dogs wake up and recover from anesthesia after a dental cleaning within 15 to 30 minutes.

Your veterinarian can also visualize your dog’s mouth, gums, and tongue while he is anesthetized. Any sort of lumps, bumps, or unusual growths can be biopsied to determine if there is an issue.

Why Do Dogs Chatter Their Teeth?

If you’ve ever seen your dog’s jaw vibrate or appear to be chattering, there may or may not be cause for concern.

Some dogs chatter their teeth when they are excited or sniff something they enjoy. When I first saw my male Cocker Spaniel do this, I thought he was having pre-seizure symptoms.

However, teeth chattering can also indicate teeth problems, periodontal issues, neurological symptoms, or even epilepsy. Some anxious dogs may chatter their teeth during bath time, veterinary visits, or during thunderstorms or fireworks displays.

If you are concerned about your dog’s teeth chattering or it happens regularly and you are worried, it’s best to check in with your veterinarian.

Can Eating Kibble Prevent Tartar on Dog Teeth?

Eating kibble and expecting it to clean a dog’s teeth is the equivalent of eating hard pretzels and hoping them to keep a human’s teeth clean.

Dogs cannot anatomically chew as people do. Dogs can chew up and down in order to pierce, shear, severe, tear, pull, rip, or bite. They can also gnaw, grip, rend, nibble, scrape, crush, and shred.

Dogs cannot chew in a side-to-side motion. Kibble cannot “scrape” tartar off dog teeth in the same way pretzels and chips can remove plaque from human teeth.

What Is Puppy Breath?

Puppy breath is one of the sweetest scents on earth. Puppies have sweet-smelling, heavenly-scented breath for a few reasons.

Basically, puppies drink from their mother’s milk and there is nothing in their stomach to mess it up. Mixed with the bacteria in a puppy’s mouth, the perfect combination of puppy breath forms. Breathe it in while you can!

What Do Healthy Gums Look Like On A Dog?

A dog’s gums should be a healthy pink, bright color. Know what normal is so that you are aware of abnormal. Checking my dog’s gums one night saved his life.

When my Cocker Spaniel’s gums turned white with some bleeding and blotchy red spots, we rushed him to an emergency veterinarian at midnight. My dog was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that could have killed him without early intervention.


If your dog’s gums are white, blue, red, or grey, then seek veterinary care.  A capillary refill test is helpful to see if the gums are functioning with good blood circulation and oxygenation.

Do Dogs Have Stronger Teeth Than Humans?

You might think giving your dog a bone to gnaw on is a great way to pass time. Dogs are natural-born chewers.

However, the enamel on the surface of a dog’s teeth is six times thinner than in humans. Imagine how easily they can break or fracture a tooth.

Dogs’ teeth are strong, but bones are harder than teeth. Consider this when you are giving your dog something to chew on. Other items that can fracture canine teeth include ice cubes, cow hooves, nylon bones, hard plastic bones, and antlers.

What Is That Bump On My Dog’s Gums?

You cannot look at any bump or lump on any part of a dog’s body and determine what it is. Bumps and lumps must be diagnosed at the cellular level, not with the human eye.

Dr. Sue Ettinger, aka The Cancer Vet, always recommends your veterinarian aspirate or biopsy any sort of new lump or bumps.

Mouth bumps range from an epulis to a plasmacytoma and various forms of oral cancer.

What Is That Bump On The Roof My Dog’s Mouth?

My Cocker Spaniel was sprawled across my chest, and I happened to have my phone nearby. I noticed some sort of a lump on the roof of his mouth.

Since I had my phone next to me, I managed to snap a photo. This is called incisive papillae and all dogs have them. Some lumps in this location can be dangerous, but this particular one was concerned by the veterinarian to be an incisive papillae.

Dogs have them as part of their olfactory system and it is sometimes called Jacobson’s organ.

lump on roof of a dog's mouth

Can I Determine My Dog’s Age By His Teeth?

Yes, you can get a rough idea of a dog’s age by the condition of his teeth. However, if a dog had a dental cleaning or received good dental care, he may be older than his teeth look.

Variations exist in the dog world just like with people. Two dogs from the same litter will likely show variations in teeth. Therefore, teeth are a general, but not 100 percent accurate, indicator of a dog’s age.

Estimated AgeDog’s Teeth Condition
1 yearWhite, clean teeth
1-2 years oldSome tartar buildup, dullness, and yellowing of the back teeth
3-5 years oldMore tartar buildup on all teeth and teeth may show some wear
5-10 years oldTeeth and/or gumline shows disease along with wear and tear
10-15 years oldWorn teeth, heavy tartar, some blackened or brown areas, missing teeth
Over 15 years oldMissing teeth, extreme tartar, teeth worn down, bad breath, pain in mouth

Where Can I Buy Zymox Oratene Products?

brushless dental care for dogs

February is Pet Dental Health Month, but taking care of your dog’s teeth and oral care needs is a year-round “must-do” for all pet parents.

Save 10 percent on your next order of Zymox products by using code FIDOSEOFREALITY10 at checkout on

Log onto Amazon and purchase Zymox products from a reputable seller.

Win Zymox Products For Your Dog

Our friends at Zymox are giving away two product packs to two lucky residents in the USA.

Zymox is giving away two prize packs consisting of:

One Oratene enzymatic brushless toothpaste gel


One Oratene Enzymatic Brushless Breath Freshener.

Simply reply below in the comments with the name of the dog(s) who will use these products.

Two winners will be drawn at random on 02/25/22. Entries close 02/24/22 at 11:59 am ET.





Contest Rules here (18 and older, USA only, please)

Can dogs get cavities in their mouth


  1. Jakey LOVES to have his teeth brushed regularly with Oratene! His teeth are pearly white.
    Cody isn’t into brushing but does permit Oratene spray.
    Wet nose, warm heart, and fresh breath!

  2. Thanks for the great information!! I am always looking for ways to make toothbrushing easier!! Mine hate it!! Boomer-cocker, Lexi-border collie mix, Dakota-husky.

  3. Hello Carol :
    I went to the Zymox website and ordered some products. Then i put in the code “FIDOSEOFREALITY10” but they said the code had expired . Is there another code for the products ? Thank you ! Nancy

  4. Great detail on dogs oral health. I didn’t know that nylon bones & other items can break their teeth, I assumed dog teeth were harder than human teeth. Oral health in dogs is crucial, poor dental health can lead to very serious health issues.

  5. I actually use the Zymox ear products and had no idea they had an oral line. I will use these products on all our dogs. Espically the older ones. Ace, Stormy, Hailey and Tim

  6. I learned a lot from your information. Thank you. Harley is the one that would be using the Zymox, since she has the bad teeth. She was born with bad teeth, I wanted to put braces on her but my vet refused to do anything. We went to a dental specialist for many years, He did gum graphs, root planing, fillings, etc. I have the ear cleaner which I love. Small dogs have such problems because their mouths are so small sometimes the teeth do not come in correctly. Thank you.

  7. Our Harley…..who is 16 years old could use this. He does have tartar problems but cannot be sedated for dental due to sic sinus syndrome. He’s healthy otherwise!

  8. This is a product I have heard about & would “love” to try for Joy. I have used other brushless tooth paste, with no luck. Joy lets me brush her teeth but truly doesn’t like it

  9. I have 2 cockers, one has great teeth the other has very small teeth that look like baby teeth, and they are horrible. I try brushing them but she hates that. I would love to try this on her.

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