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09 August 2021

Dog teeth discoloration : causes and remedies

Why does dog teeth discoloration occur in the first place? What are the causes and what actions can be taken regarding the same?

If you have been following my blog, you know how much importance I give to dog teeth brushing. Caring for the dog’s teeth is the most important part of the dog care and grooming process. Unfortunately, it is also the most ignored part of the dog. Dog guardians fail to realize the importance of maintaining healthy teeth and oral hygiene. Even when dog teeth discoloration starts to appear, it is neglected. Eventually the problem worsens to the point of causing periodontitis in dogs which is a severe, irreversible disease and may even lead to teeth loss.

Dog teeth discoloration is something that dog guardians should be very concerned about. Such a condition warrants the investigation of the dog’s teeth by a veterinarian. Just like humans, the teeth of dogs are made up of different types of tissues. The one that is responsible for giving the teeth its the pearly white color is called as enamel. When there is dog teeth discoloration, it is indicative of a history of injury or an underlying disease which may affect the enamel.
 

This is the reason why dog teeth discoloration must be addressed by the veterinarian and treated as soon as possible.


Dog teeth discoloration

Causes behind dog teeth discoloration:

Enamel is the reason of the pearly white color of teeth. Enamel also has another function. It is a very hard material. It prevents the tooth from breaking easily when your dog chews on bones and toys. It also insulates the nerves of the teeth from cold and hot food items.

Enamel is made up of several types of minerals. The most common mineral found in enamel is hydroxyapatite which is primarily calcium phosphate.

Enamel formation generally takes place between the age of 2 to 3 weeks in puppies. If the puppy suffers any type of trauma an altercation with other dogs during this period or a facial injury, it can lead to defect in the enamel development along with dog teeth discoloration.

If the enamel wears away, it is not replaced since the body does not produce enamel once the tooth has erupted.

When the animal becomes old, the teeth that starts to turn yellow because of exposure of the underlying layer which is dentin.

Dogs do not suffer from cavities as much as humans. However, there are many conditions and factors which may be the cause behind dog teeth discoloration. Dogs have been observed to have grey teeth, black teeth, and purple teeth.

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Brown teeth in dogs

Brown teeth in dogs generally occurs due to the presence of tartar, absence of dog teeth brushing can lead to tartar formation.

After eating, the food tends to react with the bacteria present in your dog’s mouth and form plaque. Plaque tends to coat the surface of the dog’s tooth. In the absence of regular dog teeth brushing, this plaque reacts with the minerals present in the dog saliva and forms tartar. The tartar is very hard to get rid of and is the primary reason behind dog teeth discoloration.

Tartar is what gives the tooth the brown color which we see. Tartar also causes irritation of the gums as well as bad breath. If tartar is not removed in time, it can progress to cause periodontitis in dogs. Periodontitis in dogs is observed in over 80% of the canine population above three years of age.

If you notice that your dog’s teeth is starting to become brown, there is a high chance of tartar accumulation. It is time to consult your vet and get dental prophylaxis done. In this procedure, they will scale and support the tartar and polish the tooth. You must also focus on dog teeth brushing on a daily basis.

In case of puppies, enamel defects may cause dog teeth discoloration.

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Blue/purple/pink tooth in dogs

If you notice that your dog has a tooth which looks blue or purple or pink in color, there is a high chance that the particular tooth is dying. The lack of blood supply to the roots of the tooth causes the tooth to become purple, blue or pink in color. This condition is referred to as active pulpitis.

Pulpitis refers to the inflammation of the dental pulp tissue. The dental pulp covers the blood vessels, connective tissues and nerves of the tooth.

Inflammation in the dental pulp happens either due to the result of a trauma like getting knocked on the face by another dog or due to inflammation as a result of chewing on something which is very hard.

The front teeth of the dog which are referred to as incisors are generally more prone to getting injured in this manner. This is because the incisors are not deeply rooted. If the trauma or injury is not treated quickly, the tooth may become painful, start to slowly rot and turn into an abscess. Dog tooth abscess is an emergency situation. When it comes to this problem, a wait and watch approach is not in your dog’s best interest.

In such cases of dog teeth discoloration, your vet will either conduct a complete extraction of the tooth or conduct a root canal treatment to preserve the remaining tooth.

If the tooth is suffering from reversible pulpitis due to trauma or inflammation, there is a chance that the pulp cavity may return to the viable (healthy) state and the tooth color may also go back to normal after treatment.

The root canal or endodontic treatment is often conducted either for cosmetic reasons or for working dogs. These are carried out by specialists and board-certified veterinary dentists.

Extractions can be done by general veterinarians unless the situation of the tooth is complicated to begin with. Always make sure that your vet performs x-rays post the extraction procedure to make sure that there are no roots left behind.

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Grey tooth in dogs

If the tooth is turning gray, there is a chance that the tooth is infected but it is going through reversible pulpitis. Reversible pulpitis has been observed to occur after a few months of active pulpitis. As I mentioned before, in case of reversible pulpitis the blood supply gets cut off and the tooth eventually dies if it is not treated on time.

The grey color is an indication of a nonviable tooth. With a nonexistent blood supply to the tooth, the nerve endings may also die and there is a chance that the tooth may not be painful after the teeth becomes completely non-viable.

If your vet observes that despite of the tooth been non viable, the roots are still structurally sound. The dentist may opt for restorative options like crowns or root canal treatment.

If such is the case in a puppy and the tooth is a baby tooth, there is no reason to be concerned. The puppy will anyways lose all of his or her teeth as the stronger permanent teeth come out. By the time the puppy reaches six months of age, all the baby teeth get replaced.

If your puppy has teeth which refuses to fall out after six months of age, take your puppy to the vet.

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Other classifications of dog teeth discoloration


Dog teeth discoloration is also classified on the basis of whether it is an extrinsic discoloration or intrinsic discoloration.

Extrinsic dog teeth discoloration:

Extrinsic discoloration is caused due to an outside source. Yellow and brown teeth color occurs due to extrinsic discoloration. The reasons behind extrinsic discoloration might be

  • Calculus formation
  • Stains from materials present in food or water.
  • Stains due to medication
  • Stains due to faulty enamel formation
  • Stains due to chewing on metal objects
  • Severe stress or infection during the developmental stages of the teeth

Intrinsic dog teeth discoloration:

Intrinsic discoloration occurs on the inside of your dog’s teeth. The primary cause of intrinsic discoloration is trauma to the teeth which leads to death of the pulp tissue and blood to seep into the tooth’s structure. The primary reasons behind intrinsic staining are as follows:

  • Injury or trauma to the teeth resulting in pulpitis
  • Tooth structure which causes infection on the inside of the tooth.
  • Presence of excess bilirubin in the blood of your dog
  • Underlying medical conditions which cause improper development of the enamel or dentin.

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Other causes of dog teeth discoloration

There are many other causes for dog teeth discoloration as well.
 

Side effects of medications

As I mentioned before, some antibiotics like Tetracycline cause permanent discoloration of teeth in young dogs. In such a case, either most of the teeth or all of the teeth may get affected.

Medical conditions

Certain medical conditions like canine distemper also cause dog teeth discoloration. Canine distemper has been observed to lead to enamel deficiency. This is responsible for the discoloration in the teeth.

Kidney failure

Metabolic conditions like kidney failure also cause dog teeth discoloration However, this condition has been observed to affect some of the teeth and not all of the teeth.

Nutritional deficiencies

If your puppy suffered from nutritional deficiencies during the growing stages, it may cause discoloration in the teeth.

Signs of dog teeth discoloration:

The primary signs of dog teeth discoloration are
  • Discoloration in the teeth
  • Presence of a broken or fractured tooth
  • Rings or lines of discoloration around the teeth
  • Presence of pitted tooth surface or rough texture of the enamel.
  • Stained enamel


Diagnosis of dog teeth discoloration

The diagnosis of teeth discoloration dogs is done by blood profiling and urinalysis. The blood profile will include a chemical blood profile and the complete blood count. Your vet will also ask you regarding your dog’s previous medical history, the onset of symptoms as well as any possible conditions which may have led to the discoloration like injury, illness, diet etc. The history that you provide your veterinarian will give him or her the clues regarding the origination of the dental problem.

After taking the details, your vet will conduct a thorough physical examination of your dog’s teeth. He or she will check the dog’s teeth vis x-ray to identify if there is internal or external resorption. The x-ray will also help your veterinarian decide whether the bacterial stain is entering the crown of your dog’s teeth. He or she may also opt to use a fiber-optic light to check and identify the viable teeth from the dead ones.

If your vet concludes that the teeth needs to be removed, he or she will have to sedate the dog with general anesthesia before the extraction procedure.

Treatment of dog teeth discoloration

Removal of extrinsic stains can be done for cosmetic purposes. These procedures most often involve external or internal treatments like veneers, crowns and preaching.

The intrinsic stain removal process is primary done to improve the teeth function and relieve your dog from the pain he or she is suffering. This mostly involves endodontic treatment or extraction of the teeth. Crowns or veneers may be used to protect the teeth as well as the teeth pulp after the endodontic treatment.

Finally, living and management

If you observe any discolored teeth in your dog, you should immediately consult your vet in order to prevent any further damage of the teeth. Discolored teeth have been observed to be more prone to fractures which can cause tooth abscessation.

In case of future litters, the discoloration can be prevented by providing certain medications to the pregnant mom. By administering the proper attention, discoloration can be prevented in puppies.

If your dog had a tooth extraction procedure, give him or her a soft diet for a few days. You can either soak his or her kibbles in warm water to make it soft and easy to chew or you can provide your dog with chicken soup and rice which can be eaten easily.

Conclusion

Teeth is the most important part of your dog’s anatomy. Dogs use their teeth not only for eating but also for carrying things, playing etc. Teeth is an important part of dog’s identity. Dogs also do not show pain the way humans do. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the guardian to always be on the lookout for any tooth related problems and keep checking the teeth on a regular basis. Dog teeth discoloration is a matter of concern and should not be taken lightly. Daily dog teeth brushing as well as the annual dental checkups and cleaning must not be missed at any cost.

Wishing you and your dog a very happy and healthy life ahead.

See you in my next blog post
Shruti


Frequently asked questions:


What does it mean when a dog's teeth are discolored?
A dog's teeth can become discolored for a variety of reasons. A few of them are as follows:
  • Enamel defect
  • tartar presence
  • infection of the tooth
  • pulpitis
  • dead teeth

What causes a dog's teeth to turn purple?
Purple tooth in dogs mean that the tooth is dying. This may happen as a result of a direct hit to the jaw, hit by a car, face trauma or excessive rough housing while playing with other pups. 

When should I go to the dentist for my dog's teeth?
If your notice your dog's teeth turning grey, purple, blue or pink, it means their is  a problem with the tooth which needs to get checked on by the dentist.

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