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Causes and prevention of caries (cavities) in dogs

02 April 2023
7 mins read
Volume 14 · Issue 3
Figure 3. Advanced caries showing demineralisation of the enamel.


Caries are difficult to diagnose in their early stages, often going undetected until patients are brought in for dental treatment under general anaesthesia and assessment of teeth is performed. This late detection happens because bacteria infiltrate into the dentine, creating the perfect climate for dentine destruction from within the tooth before any involvement of the enamel is seen. This article will demonstrate how bacteria infiltrate within the oral cavity, and discuss key client communication and education along with outlining preventative oral hygiene measures to prevent caries formation including diet and daily toothbrushing. As always, prevention is better than cure and veterinary nurses are fundamental in the prevention of oral pathologies caused by bacteria.

Caries (cavities) can occur in any breed of dog, but medium to large breeds are more affected (Hernandez et al, 2019). Lesions can occur on any tooth, although occlusal (grinding) surfaces seem to be predisposed, namely the first maxillary molar teeth, because of the close interproximal contact. Figure 1 shows the structure of the dog’s tooth. Clinically, caries manifest as softened or often discoloured spots in the enamel and a dental explorer will catch on the softened carious lesion, although root caries have also been identified (Lobrise, 2019). Caries is not clinically relevant in cats. While uncommon, caries require knowledge and understanding of the pathogenesis, so that the veterinary team is best prepared to give accurate diagnosis and allow the client to make informed decisions regarding the treatment process for their pet. Veterinary nurses can aid the diagnosis via thorough dental examination, knowledge of aetiology, progression of the disease, diagnostic imaging, treatment options and prevention methods.

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