Dog Breed Info

Examining A Dog's Mouth

The professional must remember that canine oral hygiene is a relatively new concept in the pet care world and many pet families do not brush their dog's teeth. As professionals, we must take caution when examining the mouth, simply because this may be a new procedure that many dogs are not used to. Most dogs do not mind having their mouths examined if approached in the proper manner. Use caution and soothing gestures when applying technical skills around the mouth area. What should you, as a pet care specialist, look for when examining the mouth of a dog? Use caution and soothing gestures when applying technical skills around the mouth area.

Healthy Teeth and Gums
Healthy gums will appear pink or pigmented and will feel firm with no signs of bleeding. The teeth are white with no gray, yellow or brown matter around the gum line.

Symptoms of Periodontal Disease are:

Plaque is a grayish white film gathered around the base of the teeth next to the gum line caused from not brushing the teeth. Tooth brushing will remove plaque.

When the plaque is not removed, the minerals in the saliva, combined with the plaque, forms a harder film called tartar. The tartar begins to irritate the gums, causing inflammation called gingivitis. Tooth brushing will not remove tartar. A scaling method is used by a veterinarian to remove tartar build up.

The gums are red and swollen and bleed very easily.

Periodontal Disease
If the tartar is not removed from the teeth, it builds up under the gums. This build-up of tartar causes the gums to separate from the teeth and form pockets. The pockets collect food allowing bacterial growth. This condition is called periodontal disease. If not treated, the disease can cause chronic pain, receding gums, bone loss and tooth loss. A dog with periodontal disease is not able to chew his/her food properly, affecting the overall health of the dog. Treating infection around the teeth and gum area requires a dental cleaning performed under a general anesthesia by a veterinarian. The teeth are cleaned below the gum line to remove all tartar build-up in an effort to decrease the size of the pockets. Antibiotics are given after this procedure to fight infection. Tooth brushing on a daily schedule is required.

The mouth must be examined and the overall condition of the teeth and gums evaluated before brushing the dog's teeth.

The examination of the mouth to evaluate the condition of the gums and teeth should be performed before each brushing to stay updated on the overall oral hygiene of that particular dog.

The easiest place to perform this overall examination is in the bathing tub before the bath.

Immediately after examining the mouth, the dog's teeth are brushed making for an easy clean up during the bath.

Reference Links
Symptoms that may indicate a mouth disorder in dogs:

Be Prepared for the Pet's Reaction
Asking a big dog to open his/her mouth and allow you to check out his/her teeth and gums can be pretty intimidating to not just the novice but also the seasoned groomer. In fact, great care must be taken when approaching any size dog to investigate his/her mouth. You must keep in mind that the procedure for evaluating the mouth is very new for man's best friend. Many pets today have not been exposed to this type of examination since they were puppies, making it a totally new experience for many pets that come to your salon. In the future, however, this type of task will be like giving them food and water because most of the dogs will adapt to this procedure with no problems.

Pet's Position: Sitting or Standing
Professional's Position: Front or Front/Side

Procedure: Examining a Dog's Mouth Prior to Tooth Brushing
  • Approach the dog from the side.
  • Check the proper position of the safety loop.
  • Stand in front or to the front/side of the dog and gently secure the head.
  • Using both hands massage both ears.
  • Bring one hand around to the muzzle area and gently secure the muzzle.
  • Do not hold the muzzle with a firm grip. Dogs with periodontal disease will react to the pressure simply because it hurts. Allow your other hand to work as a tool to massage the ear to relax the dog.
  • Avoid hand movements such as reaching downward in a fast motion and grasping the muzzle from the top. This is a very dominant gesture and some dogs will react to this. Always use an approach from the neck area to the muzzle.
  • Never hold your hands in a position that covers the nose. The dog will react immediately to this gesture simply because you have blocked his airway.
  • Approach the dog from the side, placing one hand around the cheek and ear area, slowly moving to the front of the dog.
  • Place both hands around the cheek and ear area and gently massage.
  • Bring your hands forward slowly using a soft massage-type motion.
  • Using both hands and talking to the dog in soft tones, gently lift the lips to evaluate the dog's response.
  • If the dog begins to struggle, move your hands back to the cheek or ear area and massage gently.
  • Once the pet is relaxed, bring both hands up to the muzzle area but use caution.
  • Attempt to lift the lips to examine the mouth. If the dog begins to struggle, stop the examination immediately; if not, continue with the procedure.
  • Continue talking to the dog in soft tones as you evaluate the teeth and gums.
  • Complete your examination with lots of praise for the pet.

Safe & Gentle Handling
All pets must be treated with care during this procedure in order to train this new generation of dogs for this new and beneficial procedure for man's best friend.

Pets with Special Needs
Pets with special needs are prone to teeth and gum disorders making it very difficult to examine the mouth of dogs in this category. Great care must be taken when opening the mouth not to force it too wide or pull the head too far upward. Care must be taken during the entire procedure to prevent getting this type of dog upset. If the pet resists, you must make the decision on whether to continue with the procedure. If you feel that the procedure will stress the dog to a point that the dog would be in danger, you must not continue.

Professional Image
Maintaining a professional image during the examination of the mouth may be the easiest for all professionals simply because it comes naturally. It is definitely one of the procedures that almost all professional take great care in performing.

Safety Policy
The dog must be safely secured with a safety loop in the bathing station before any technical procedures begin especially around the head area.

If you notice signs of infection in the dog's mouth, make sure to sanitize your hands immediately afterwards or before working on another dog.

Time Management
There is no way to rush the examination of a dog's mouth so the only way to save time in this procedure or to be able to conduct this procedure in an efficient manner is to have excellent handling skills to keep the dog relaxed so that you can complete this procedure. Remember to praise the dog afterwards for allowing you to complete this procedure.

Client Relations: Notification to the Pet Family
Notification to the pet family that you were not able to perform a task is critical. Never let the client think that you are brushing the dog's teeth when you are not.

Client Relations: Recommendation to the Pet Family
Always recommend if you feel like the pet needs to visit the veterinarian for a cleaning or if a tooth looks decayed or abscessed.

Client Relations: Pet Family Education
Since oral care is so new, take the time to discuss this procedure and the benefit of this service with your pet families.
Pet Grooming Training