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Dogs chew bones for many purposes, and good dental hygiene can be a positive by-product of chewing behavior. Not only can chewing bones help protect against poor dental hygiene, it also can prevent tooth root and gum infection, which can lead to serious medical conditions if left untreated.
Why Dogs Chew
Chewing is an ingrained dog habit. If you've ever taken your dog for a walk in the woods, where there are no rawhides or chew toys, you'll see he picks up sticks to chew on, so the chewing itself is instinctual in nature. The act has a calming effect on many dogs, and it also helps to ease the soreness of painful gums when new teeth are coming in.
Positive Aspects of Chewing
When your dog chews on a bone, it helps him to remove food that's gotten lodged in his teeth, and it simultaneously helps to reduce plaque buildup on his teeth and around his gums. This can lessen the potential for your dog to develop the gum disease gingivitis, and it gives him good breath as well. Some commercially produced specialty dog bones claim to enhance the dental care aspect of chewing, and those with chlorhexidine or a hydrogen peroxide additive can indeed be useful. For best results, ask your vet about the most appropriate type of dental hygiene chews for your pet.
While bone chewing offers a variety of benefits for your dog, there can be associated problems as well. For example, if your dog bites down on an inappropriate chew toy or something that's very hard, there is the potential for breaking or loosening a tooth. Infected roots and gums can lead to bacterial infections that enter the bloodstream and can lead to problems with major organ systems. Additionally, if your dog chews a toy or a bone that reduces in size to become a choking hazard, it could lead to airway obstruction that requires emergency medical care.
Caring for Dog Teeth
Get your dog used to having his mouth touched and examined when he's young and regularly brush his teeth with toothpaste formulated for dogs, not humans. Give your dog safe and appropriate chew toys and take him to a veterinary dentist for regular checkups and cleanings. Poor oral hygiene can lead to painful abscesses, loose, impacted teeth and can result in surgical removal of teeth if dental problems aren’t promptly addressed.