9 Common Dog Dental Problems: Symptoms & More [Vet-Approved]

A dog getting their teeth brushed, an at-home dental care routine to avoid dog dental problems or dental disease in dogs

Curious about the most common dog dental problems that a pup can sustain? Here at Sploot Veterinary Care, we encounter and treat numerous dog dental issues regularly. On this list, we cover the most common dog dental problems that we see in our veterinary clinic. 

Most of the dog dental issues we will cover affect the tooth, gums, or both. In some cases, dog dental issues can also have a systemic impact — for example, the life-threatening periodontal gum disease in dogs can lead to liver issues and heart disease. 

We encourage pet parents to maintain a consistent dog dental care routine to boost their pup’s quality (and length) of life. In addition, watch out for the following common dog dental problems and their distinctive signs.

What’s in This Guide?

Dog Dental Problems: Signs of Dental Disease in Dogs (General)

Before we talk about the most common dog dental problems that pet parents need to know, here are the general symptoms or signs of dental disease in dogs. 

Most of the following signs and symptoms are related to dog pain because a majority of dog dental problems cause pain and discomfort. Other symptoms are visual changes to the dog’s teeth, gums, or face — which are produced by some (not all) dog dental problems.

Behavioral Signs of Dental Problems in Dogs: 

  • Reduced appetite or picky eating in dogs
  • Difficulty eating
  • Chewing on only one side of the mouth
  • Dropping food while eating
  • Chattering of teeth
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Sensitivity to being touched near the mouth
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Drooling excessively

Other Observable or Visible Signs of Dog Dental Issues

  • Visible changes to teeth
  • Discolorations on the tooth
  • Bleeding gums or blood on the dog’s chew toy
  • Pus (purulent discharge) coming from the mouth
  • Swelling on the face near the cheeks and eyes
  • Inflammation on any part of the mouth
Note: If you observe any of the above signs of dog dental issues, make sure to contact a trusted veterinary clinic that offers dog dental care.
A dog not eating, showing possible signs of dog dental problems

1. Dog Plaque on Teeth

Plaque on dog teeth is a thin, sticky, yellowish film of bacteria that forms on the dog’s teeth, often resulting from the accumulation of food particles. If not removed, plaque can harden into tartar, a rough shell on which more bacteria can accumulate. Plaque and tartar buildups are likely to progress to more severe dental issues.

In general, dog plaque on teeth, by itself, does not cause pain in dogs. However, the presence of plaque or tartar may be a sign that your pup needs to undergo teeth cleaning. Additionally, to assist in dog plaque prevention, we encourage pet parents to include toothbrushing as part of their dog’s dental care routine. 

To know if your pup could be suffering from plaque buildup, here are the telltale signs:

  • Visible yellow or brown film on teeth
  • Bad breath (halitosis)

2. Dog Tooth Decay & Dental Caries

Dog tooth decay involves the deterioration of tooth structure due to bacterial action, resulting in cavities or holes. Dental caries are areas of decay on the tooth's surface.

Notable signs of dental caries in dogs include the following: 

  • Pain or discomfort while eating or picky eating
  • Discoloration or dark spots on the affected teeth
  • Visible pits or holes on the tooth surface
Note: Visible changes in the dog’s teeth can be an indicator of dog tooth decay; however, behavioral signs (e.g. difficulty chewing or eating) are enough reason to see a veterinarian. Sploot’s veterinarian, Dr. Sylvia Berns further explains: “Though [visible signs of tooth decay in dogs] are worth mentioning, caries are only seen in around 5 percent of dogs” 

3. Discolored Teeth in Dogs

Normally, dog teeth are colored white or off-white; this is especially true after plaque and tartar are removed after a thorough dog teeth cleaning by a veterinarian. If a dog’s tooth is yellow, brown, spotted, dark, pink, purple, or grey, it means the tooth is discolored. 

Discolored teeth in dogs can be due to a variety of reasons, such as the following: 

1. Yellow dog teeth

Yellow dog teeth are likely due to the presence of plaque — this typically requires veterinary dog teeth cleaning.

2. Yellow-brown or brown stains on dog teeth

When a dog’s teeth are stained yellow-brown or brown, this can be due to tartar (hardened plaque). In such cases, veterinary dog dental cleaning is typically recommended.

3. Brown or black spots on dog teeth

Brown or black spots on dog teeth may be due to dental staining from tartar — or dental caries. If dental caries are suspected, tooth extraction may be recommended.

If brown or black spots on the dog’s teeth are located in the middle of the crown, this could mean attrition (wearing of the teeth). Attrition in dog’s teeth may or may not require dental treatment from the vet, depending on the extent 

4. Widespread dark color affecting gums 

A widespread dark color on the dog’s gums can be a sign of late-stage periodontal gum disease in dogs. It would be recommended to see a veterinarian as soon as possible.

5. Pink, purple, grey, or black teeth on dogs

Physical trauma to the dog’s tooth can cause the pulp tissue inside to die, resulting in pink, purple, grey, or blackened dog teeth. These cases require immediate dental care from a veterinarian.

6. Pink dog tooth  

Pink dog teeth can be a sign of dog tooth resorption, a dental issue in dogs wherein the tooth is gradually being reabsorbed by the body. These cases require immediate dental care from a veterinarian.

4. Gingivitis in Dogs

Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gums, commonly caused by the accumulation of plaque and tartar along the dog’s gumline. If left untreated, gingivitis in dogs can progress to periodontal gum disease in dogs, a potentially life-threatening dog dental disease.

A few of the most notable signs of gingivitis in dogs include:

  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Bleeding gums, especially during brushing or chewing
  • Redness, swelling, and puffiness of the gums
Note: If you suspect gingivitis in your dog, we encourage you to book an appointment with a veterinary clinic that offers dog dental care. Prompt treatment of gingivitis in dogs can stop it from progressing into periodontal gum disease in dogs.

5. Periodontal Gum Disease in Dogs

Periodontal gum disease in dogs, an advanced stage of gingivitis in dogs, involves the inflammation and infection of the supporting structures around the teeth, including the gums and bones. 

Periodontal gum disease in dogs causes tooth loss, as well as various systemic problems such as liver disease and heart disease. This dog dental problem can unfortunately shorten a dog’s lifespan while also diminishing their quality of life.

A few of the notable signs of periodontal gum disease in dogs include:

  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Receding gumline, exposing tooth roots
  • Pus or discharge around the gumline 
  • Loose or shifting teeth
  • Dark, discolored teeth
Note: If detected and addressed early, periodontal disease in dogs can still be treated and reversed. Most reversible cases are those in the beginning stages of the disease. For further questions about suspected periodontal disease in dogs, reach out to a veterinarian.
A dog having a check-up at Sploot veterinary care in Denver or Chicago for possible periodontal gum disease in dogs

6. Dog Tooth Abscess

A dog tooth abscess is a painful and pus-filled pocket of infection that forms within the tooth or the surrounding tissues. It occurs as a result of untreated dog dental problems such as dog tooth fractures, decay, or periodontal gum disease in dogs.

The telltale signs of dog tooth abscess include the following:

  • Pain or discomfort while eating or picky eating
  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Pus (purulent discharge) coming from the mouth
  • Swelling on the face, often near the affected tooth
Note: If you observe any of the above symptoms, reach out to a veterinarian as soon as possible for prompt treatment and pain management.

7. Dog Tooth Fractures or Broken Teeth

Dog tooth fractures or broken teeth occur when a tooth is cracked, chipped, or broken, often resulting from trauma or chewing on hard objects.

The main signs of dog tooth fractures include the following:

  • Pain or discomfort while eating or picky eating
  • Visible cracks or chips on the tooth surface
  • Bleeding from the broken tooth
Note: Fractured or broken dog teeth are urgent vet care cases. Reach out to an urgent care veterinarian if you observe the above symptoms of dental problems in dogs.

8. Missing or Loose Dog Teeth

Missing or loose dog teeth can be a result of advanced dental issues, such as severe periodontal disease or trauma, leading to tooth mobility or loss.

Some of the notable signs to watch out for include the following:

  • Pain or discomfort while eating or picky eating
  • Loose or wobbly teeth
  • Visible gaps in the dental arch of the dog
Note: Missing or loose dog teeth are urgent vet care cases. Reach out to an urgent care veterinarian if you observe the above symptoms of dental problems in dogs.

9. Dog Tooth Resorption

Tooth resorption in dogs is a painful condition where the tooth structure is gradually broken down and absorbed by the body, often starting at the roots. 

Although the cause of tooth resorption in dogs is unknown, prompt detection and treatment will put a stop to this painful dental issue in dogs.

Telltale signs of dog tooth resorption include the following:

  • Pain or discomfort while eating or picky eating
  • Redness and inflamed areas around the teeth
  • Visible holes or defects in the tooth enamel
  • Pink discoloration of the tooth
Note: Prompt treatment for dog tooth resorption is advised. If you observe any of the above symptoms of dental problems in dogs, reach out to a veterinarian for further evaluation. 

Final Thoughts on Dog Dental Problems

Though there are various dog dental problems that a pup can sustain, the good news is that a great dog dental care routine can help prevent a majority of the above dog dental issues. 

Complete dog dental care involves at-home dental care (i.e. toothbrushing, dental chews or water additives) and regular veterinary dental care (i.e. dog dental exams, dog teeth cleaning).

→ Learn more - Dog & Cat Dental Care: Tips for Great Oral Health [Vet-Approved]

A dog getting their teeth brushed, a part of routine dental care for dogs to prevent symptoms of dental problems in dogs

Complete Dog Dental Care at Sploot Veterinary Care

Sploot Veterinary Care is a trusted primary and urgent care veterinarian that offers routine dental care for dogs (i.e. dog dental exam, dog teeth cleaning) — as well as dental treatments for various dog dental issues. Our veterinary clinics are open 365 days a year, until 10 pm. We offer same-day appointments as well as urgent-intakes

Get your pup started on great dental care today! Feel free to book an appointment online or through the Sploot Vets app

As always, we’re with you every pounce of the way!