Why Are My Dog’s Teeth Discolored?

Why Are My Dog’s Teeth Discolored?

Similar to humans, a dog’s teeth can become discolored due to various reasons. Some of these causes are harmless and some could indicate disease or a dead tooth. So what are the causes of discoloration in dog teeth?

What Causes Discoloration of Dog Teeth?


1. Plaque & Tartar

The crown of a tooth can become discolored due to plaque and tartar accumulation. Dogs, like humans will develop plaque on their teeth, which is a sticky film composed of bacteria, saliva, and food particles.

Over time, if not removed by regular brushing and professional dental cleanings under anesthesia by your veterinarian, plaque will become mineralized and turned into calculus. This will cause the crown to be discolored and contribute to periodontal disease.


2. Medications

Unlike humans, dogs do not drink colored liquids, such as coffee, that will lead to tooth discoloration. There is one commonly used oral antiseptic in dogs, chlorhexidine, that can cause discoloration over time.

However, discoloration caused by chlorhexidine does not cause your dog any pain or damage to a tooth. Oral chlorhexidine rinses are simply very good oral antiseptics that your veterinarian may prescribe to help combat plaque bacteria that cause periodontal disease.

Some medications, such as tetracyclines, can cause discoloration in the form of staining if they are given to a pupping while their teeth have still not erupted and are developing.


3. Worn Enamel

If the crown of a tooth is worn down through inappropriate chewing, it may become discolored. Enamel covers the surface of the crown with dentin underneath it. Dentin makes up the majority of tooth structure.

When a dog is given excessively hard objects to chew on, such as marrow bones or antlers, the enamel of the crown will be worn down and expose dentin. This will often cause dentin to become discolored.

The pulp within a tooth will sense this wear and start to lay down what is called reparative dentin to protect itself from exposure. This reparative dentin will usually be brown in color. If the pulp can form reparative dentin quickly enough, the tooth can most remain vital (alive).


4. Tennis Balls

One surprising source of wear can be tennis balls, if a dog is allowed to chew on them frequently throughout the day. The fiber surface of a tennis ball, especially if dirt and grit accumulate within the fibers, can actually wear the crown of a tooth down to the underlying pulp chamber. Tennis balls can almost act like sandpaper across the surface of a tooth.

Figure 1 These are worn teeth in a dog that chewed on tennis balls too much.


5. Oral Trauma

Perhaps the most common cause of discoloration of dog teeth is trauma or injury. This type of discoloration is referred to as intrinsic staining. When is tooth is traumatized, often by chewing on hard objects like bone, the pulp will become bruised. This will literally slow blood flow within the pulp and cause pulpitis, also known as inflammation of the pulp. If pulpitis does not resolve, it will lead to death of the pulp.

This may or may not be painful for a dog. Unfortunately, dogs will often hide their oral pain and not “tell” their pet owners that they are dealing with a painful tooth. Dogs that are dealing with oral pain will most often continue to eat since their survival instinct is so strong. This is why discolored teeth should be evaluated by your veterinarian with a complete oral exam and imaging under anesthesia.

Figure 2 – This is a large canine (fang) tooth after its pulp died probably from an unknown source of trauma.

If caught early enough, the tooth can be saved through vital pulp therapy. Often the treatment decision for discolored teeth dealing with irreversible pulpitis is either extraction or root canal therapy.


Choosing Safe Chew Toys for Dogs


It is important to note what types of chew toys are acceptable for dogs and typically will not damage their teeth. A simple set of rules to go by is to not give your dog:

  1. Any chew toy that you can’t easily bend or break
  2. Anything you wouldn’t want thrown at your knee
  3. Anything you could pund a nail with

If you go by these rules, chew items, such as marrow bones, antlers, nylon bone, etc, are far to hard for their teeth and can potentially bruise the pulp of a tooth or fracture it.


Veterinary Dentist in Colorado Springs


It is important to note that discoloration alone may not always indicate a serious dental condition, but it can be a sign of underlying dental issues. Regular dental care, including brushing your dog’s teeth, providing appropriate dental chews that will not damage teeth, and scheduling professional dental cleanings, can help maintain oral health and minimize discoloration.

If you notice significant or sudden discoloration, it’s advisable to consult your veterinarian for an examination and appropriate treatment. If you have any questions about possible discolored teeth in your dog, please contact us at Animal Dental Care and Oral Surgery in Colorado Springs at (719)536-9949 or email info@wellpets.com.


Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash