Oral Health; The Deeper Truth

By the age of three, 80% of dogs will show some signs of dental disease, according to the American Veterinary Dental Society

Original post: July 23, 2010




Poor oral hygiene is linked to a number of health risks, ranging from periodontal disease, which can cause tooth soreness or loss, and difficulty eating to diseases that affect other functions of the body.

Degradation of dental health can quickly translate into nutritional limitation. However, irrefutable research has revealed a less obvious but very serious implication related to deteriorated gum health and it relates to human and companion health alike. The mouth is a perfect breeding ground for invasive microbes that can gain access to the rest of the body through the damaged gums.

Untreated infection in the mouth can fester silently to eat away at bone and other tissues that anchor the teeth. Infection starts on the surface and works its way inward tearing holes in the connective tissue barrier. The best treatment is prevention; preventing these pathogenic microbes from adhering to teeth, gums and bone.

Oral infection can have a rippling effect throughout the body spewing toxic chemicals and microbes that migrate from the gums and intrude on the body in many ways form the biochemical to significant tissue damage. Once these microbes enter the systemic circulation health can decline fast and often with no apparent cause.

Engagement of the immune system can result in compromised defense against secondary illnesses, chronic fatigue, body aches, unexpected fever and more. Research has demonstrated that oral infection can advance heart disease and kidney and lung damage. Prevention is the most powerful treatment and the right diet and supplements can empower the body with the tools it needs to reduce the risk of tooth and gum disease.

Identifying dental disease and its early stages

Bad breath is a common indication of dental disease but it’s not a conclusive indicator. Halitosis can result from less than optimal gastrointestinal health and a body striving too hard to maintain functional metabolic pH. A visual inspection of the teeth and gums must be made to rule out plaque formation – brownish discolorations of the pearly whites is indicative that action must be taken. Inspect your pet for tooth and gum disease at least every two weeks.

Tartar is an advanced stage of plaque that has been thickened and solidified by the incorporation of calcium and other salts. This mineral fortification of the plaque makes it more difficult to remove and creates a porous environment in which bacteria can hide and proliferate. These microbes consequently produce acids as metabolic byproducts and the acids and tarter further degrade tooth enamel and gums. In no time at all the gums become irritated, inflamed and begin to recede. Identification of these stages before gum bleeding and periodontal disease advance deeper is critical to safeguarding the body from massive systemic infection. People and their canine companions alike are vulnerable to these ravages from poor dental hygiene. Smaller dog breeds tend to have a higher incidence of plaque accumulation often due to smaller cavernous teeth.


While vets recommend regular tooth brushing for pets, owners need to consider the vital link between oral and gastrointestinal health, and the role that proper diet can play. Even the highest quality pet foods fall short of providing the nutrients that can support oral health and the kibble crunch is just not enough to slough off the plaque or tartar.

A canine diet high in carbohydrate component not only influences insulin and other endocrine hormones, it has a profound effect on autocrine hormones involved in the advancement of inflammation. In addition to this internal metabolic influence on inflammation, the carbohydrate content can also contribute to tooth and gum harm on the surface just as it does in man. And we tend not to brush fido’s or kitty’s teeth as often as our own.

My solution is to first choose a healthy food void of unnecessary carbohydrate sources: avoid rice, maltodextrin, molasses, and other sources of sugars. Meat and some vegetables should form the basis for the food. Regularly feed a raw bone that still has some meat, tendon and cartilage on it. Raw is the key. Cooked bones can damage the teeth and intestinal tract. The sinew on the bone inspires gnawing, nibbling and healthy stimulation of the jaw and gums.

As much as many urban going canines rarely get their fair share of the raw stuff, they need it to fulfill their primal desires and a natural tooth brushing as well as gum, bone and muscle tone. I’ll feed a raw bone that can last my furry companion a few days. Another secret weapon that I feed in addition to the raw bone three to four times per week is raw turkey necks to the big guys and raw chicken necks to my little guy.

Take the rubbery raw necks out of the freezer the night before to thaw. Sometimes I just give the necks frozen. These cartilage laden boney necks literally slough off build up on the teeth as your dog chomps down. It’s natures perfect tooth brush.

Supplementation is critical to tooth and gum health as well. The body requires an abundant supply of fatty acid building blocks, vitamins and minerals to build and maintain strong teeth, bones and connective tissues like the gums. Antioxidant vitamins such as CoQ10 and vitamin A, D and E play central roles in the preservation and regeneration of these tissues. Vitamin C is also recognized as a crucial cofactor for connective tissue regeneration and preservation.

Recent research into Vitamin D indicates that it plays a much larger role in the body than mere bone mineralization. It factors in innate immunity and doses in excess of 3000 IUs are recommended for you and me each day. I will supplement my own program with 2000-5000 IUs regularly and take an occasional 8000-10000 IU dose.

Innate immunity is the first line of defence against invasive microbes launched through mucosal secretions and barriers. Vitamin D is shown to improve the immune system`s ability to produce specialized peptides that have potent antimicrobial activity. Ever wonder why your immune system`s capacity to resist flu and cold is lessened in the daylight deprived winter months. Vitamin D can be manufactured by the moderately exposed body from sunlight in amounts that can exceed 20,000 IUs on a bright sunny beach day. But our canine companions can’t get sunlight to their bustling cells as directly as we can.

Supporting our built-in natural defence and health maintenance systems by supplementing with a complete vitamin, mineral antioxidant program is powerful health insurance. This includes digestive enzymes. Digestive enzymes also help maintain the right pH in the gut and the mouth and indirectly support oral health in this way. Recent research is demonstrating with more irrefutable evidence that the gut friendly bacteria, those commonly referred to as probiotics play a central role in oral hygiene as well.

Not only do they support gastrointestinal health, general immune system efficiency and cardiovascular health, they create an environment in the mouth that repels the bacteria that contribute to tooth enamel damage and tartar accumulation. And the fuel these specialized protective bacteria need for survival, the prebiotic fibres, also support the health maintenance system.

A properly formulated supplement will be complete with all of these critical components: vitamins, A, Bs, C, D, E; minerals, digestive enzymes, probiotics and prebiotics; antioxidants that protect connective tissues and essential fatty acids and amino acids needed to repair and regenerate. I also add extra vitamin D to my companion animals bowl in the amount of 500 – 2000 IU per day for Bubba, my 125 pounder Rotti and as much as 500 IU for my 20 pound Jack Russell Terrier

Your choices play a huge role in disease and health maintenance and the diet you choose, the supplements you add and the raw bones and turkey necks you choose to feed will go a long way to support vitality and quality of life well into your canine companion`s senior years. Prevention is the best cure. Start now, save later!



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