Senior Dog Has Loose Tooth

When dogs reach about 7 years of age, they are generally considered senior dogs. As dogs age, it’s important for owners to monitor their dental health closely. According to the American Veterinary Dental College, over 80% of dogs have some form of dental disease by age 3. This number increases to over 95% in dogs that are 7 years or older. Periodontal disease is the most common dental issue in senior dogs, marked by inflammation and infection of the gums and surrounding tooth structures.

Keeping a close eye on a senior dog’s teeth and seeking veterinary dental care when needed can help avoid potentially serious health issues. Loose teeth are a common sign of dental disease in older dogs and require prompt attention. With proper care, senior dogs can maintain good dental health well into their golden years.

Signs of Loose Teeth in Senior Dogs

There are a few signs that indicate your senior dog may have loose teeth:

  • Wobbly teeth that move when touched or when the dog eats
  • Red, inflamed, or bleeding gums around a tooth
  • Bad breath or pus around the gums
  • Difficulty eating dry kibble or chewing on toys/bones
  • Excessive drooling
  • Loss of appetite or dropping food from the mouth while eating
  • Crying out in pain when yawning or eating
  • Bump or swelling along the jawline
  • Missing teeth

According to Blue Pet, if you notice any loose, damaged, or missing teeth in your senior dog, it’s important to schedule a veterinary dental exam as soon as possible. Visual signs like a wobbly tooth, red and inflamed gums, bad breath, or difficulty eating are clear indicators something is wrong and the tooth needs to be evaluated.

Causes of Loose Teeth in Older Dogs

There are several potential causes of loose teeth in senior dogs:

Periodontal Disease

The most common cause of loose teeth in older dogs is periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues surrounding the tooth, including the gums and bone. It’s caused by plaque and tartar buildup on the teeth. According to the Whole Dog Journal, periodontal disease affects over 80% of dogs by the age of three. As periodontal disease progresses in senior dogs, it can cause inflammation, receding gums, bone loss, and eventual tooth loss if left untreated.

Trauma

Trauma to the mouth can also cause loose teeth in senior dogs. If a dog suffered an injury that damaged the periodontal ligament or fractured the root, it could lead to a loose tooth. Things like bites from other animals, falls, car accidents, sports impacts, or chewing on hard objects can potentially traumatize a tooth.

Cancer

Oral tumors and cancers, while less common, can also be the cause of loose teeth in dogs. Tumors in the mouth may start small but grow and invade surrounding bone and tissue. According to BluePearl Pet Hospital, melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and fibrosarcoma are the most prevalent oral cancers in dogs. An oral tumor that affects the bone can lead to tooth loss.

Dangers of Loose Teeth

Loose teeth in senior dogs can lead to some serious health risks that pet owners should be aware of. According to Whole Dog Journal, the most common danger associated with loose teeth is a painful infection in the tooth socket and jaw after the tooth falls out or needs to be extracted (https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/health/senior-dog-is-losing-teeth/). Bacteria accumulates in pockets around loose teeth, which can spread into the tooth socket once the tooth falls out. This leads to a condition called osteomyelitis, which is an infection in the bone. Osteomyelitis is very painful and requires aggressive antibiotic treatment as well as removal of any infected bone.

Another major danger of loose teeth is tooth loss. According to WagWalking, periodontitis is one of the leading causes of tooth loss in elderly dogs (https://wagwalking.com/wellness/5-common-dental-problems-in-elderly-dogs). Periodontitis causes destruction of the ligaments and bone that hold the teeth in place, leading to increased looseness and eventual tooth loss if not treated. Tooth loss can lead to other health problems, such as trouble eating or loss of appetite in senior dogs.

The pain and discomfort caused by a loose tooth can also lead to difficulty eating in senior dogs. Hard kibble or chew toys may be too painful for a dog with a loose tooth. Swallowing may also be painful. Owners of senior dogs with loose teeth need to transition to soft food to allow their dog to eat comfortably until the tooth can be extracted.

When to See the Vet

It’s recommended to have your senior dog undergo annual dental exams by your veterinarian. This allows the vet to inspect your dog’s teeth and identify any potential problems early. During these annual exams, the vet can discover loose teeth and recommend treatment.

You should make an appointment to see the vet as soon as you notice any signs of a loose tooth in your senior dog. Some signs include reluctance to eat hard food, dropping food from their mouth, bleeding from the gums around a tooth, discharge or swelling near a tooth, and sudden bad breath.

Bring your dog to the vet right away if you see a tooth that is dangling, as this can be very painful and damaging. A loose tooth that is not treated properly can lead to infection, tooth loss, fracture of the jawbone, and other problems.

According to The Spruce Pets, when a loose tooth is discovered, a veterinarian will likely recommend extraction of the tooth along with other treatment to prevent complications.

Diagnosis

To diagnose a loose tooth in senior dogs, the veterinarian will likely start with a thorough physical exam of the mouth and teeth. They will look for signs of periodontal disease, such as inflamed gums, plaque buildup, and teeth that are loose or infected. The vet may gently wiggle the teeth to check for any abnormal movement.

Dental x-rays are often recommended to evaluate the tooth roots and surrounding bone structures. X-rays allow the vet to see below the gumline for bone loss, cysts, fractures or other issues that may be causing the loose tooth. This helps determine the best treatment approach.

Bloodwork may also be recommended, especially in older dogs. A complete blood count and chemistry panel can check for underlying illness or infection that may be contributing to dental disease. Bloodwork provides important information about your dog’s overall health status before undergoing any dental procedures.

With a combination of a thorough physical exam, dental x-rays and bloodwork, the veterinarian can fully diagnose the cause and severity of the loose tooth. This allows them to recommend the most appropriate treatment plan for your senior dog.

Treatment

Once your veterinarian has examined your senior dog’s mouth and diagnosed a loose tooth, they will likely recommend treatment to remove the tooth. According to the American Veterinary Dental College, extraction is the preferred treatment for a loose tooth in dogs.

The main components of treatment for a loose tooth typically include:

  • Tooth extraction – Your vet will surgically extract the loose tooth under general anesthesia. This prevents pain and discomfort in your dog during the procedure. Extraction is often the quickest way to resolve issues caused by a loose tooth.
  • Antibiotics – Your vet may prescribe antibiotics to prevent or treat any infection associated with the loose tooth. Antibiotics may be given before and after extraction.
  • Pain medication – Your dog may receive pain medication before, during and/or after the extraction to keep them comfortable.
  • Dental cleaning – Your vet may recommend a full dental cleaning and polishing for your dog’s teeth while they are under anesthesia. This can help improve overall dental health.

In some cases, additional dental x-rays or tooth extractions may be recommended if your vet finds evidence of other dental issues during the procedure. Be sure to follow all your vet’s aftercare instructions carefully after your dog undergoes tooth extraction.

Aftercare

After a tooth extraction, dogs require some special care while the wound heals. It’s important to keep the extraction site clean and monitor for any complications. According to Caring for Your Dog After Tooth Extraction, you’ll need to care for the wound for 7-10 days after surgery.

To care for the wound, avoid touching or irritating the surgery site. Your vet may prescribe an antibiotic ointment to apply to the area for the first few days. It’s also crucial to prevent your dog from rubbing or scratching at the wound. An Elizabethan collar may be necessary to stop your dog from interfering with healing.

Your dog’s diet will also need to be adjusted after a tooth extraction. Stick to soft, wet foods that are easy to chew and swallow. According to How to Care for Your Dog After Tooth Extraction Surgery, it’s best to avoid hard kibble or chews that could damage the tender mouth and delay healing. Gradually reintroduce your dog’s normal diet after about a week.

Monitor your dog closely over the next 7-14 days. Signs of complications include excessive bleeding, pain, swelling, discharge, or difficulty eating. Contact your vet immediately if you notice anything abnormal during the healing process. With proper aftercare, your dog should make a full recovery within 2 weeks.

Prevention

There are several steps you can take to help prevent your senior dog from developing loose teeth and other dental issues:

Regular dental cleanings are crucial. Your vet can perform a professional cleaning 1-2 times per year to remove plaque and tartar from your dog’s teeth before it leads to gum disease and tooth loss. Cleanings allow for a thorough exam to identify any dental issues early. According to the American Animal Hospital Association, most dogs show signs of oral disease by age 3, so it’s important to start cleanings early (source).

Daily tooth brushing can also help tremendously with preventing plaque buildup and keeping your dog’s mouth healthy. Use a soft-bristled brush and dog-safe toothpaste. Take it slow if your dog is resistant at first. Make it a positive experience with praise and treats. Brushing once or twice a day is ideal.

Your vet may recommend a prescription dental diet formulated to reduce tartar. These diets are often effective when paired with home brushing. Hard kibble also helps scrape plaque off teeth as your dog chews (source).

When to Seek a Second Opinion

Even after seeing your vet, you may want to get a second opinion if the tooth seems salvageable but is not responding well to initial treatment. According to experts on JustAnswer.com, “I want a second opinion on my dog’s tooth. Her vet said it’s fractured and needs surgically removed. The tooth is loose but not bothering her.” In cases like this, it can be worthwhile to consult another vet before proceeding with extraction, as the tooth may still be viable with a different treatment approach.

Additionally, as advised on PetCoach.co, “I recommend to get a second opinion. Although the tooth will eventually fall out, she may have other teeth that are diseased or will become loose that can be saved with proper dental care.” Seeing a second vet provides another perspective on which teeth can potentially be saved vs. extracted. With professional cleaning and medication, some loose teeth may tighten up again and not require removal.

Overall, getting a second vet’s opinion is recommended if your dog’s tooth seems salvageable but is not responding well to initial cleaning, medication or other treatment prescribed by the first vet. A different perspective may reveal alternative treatment options to try before resorting to extraction.

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