Caries is referred to as a hole in the tooth or cavity in people, also known as tooth decay. It occurs when bacteria stick to the surface of the tooth. Using sugar in the saliva these bacteria produce acids that dissolve the tooth. The lesions are most commonly seen on the flatter chewing molar teeth at the back of a dog’s mouth. These lesions are extremely rare in cats. As anyone who has had a cavity before knows, the condition is very painful and needs treatment.
Because it is the teeth at the back of the mouth that are usually affected, it is easy to miss on a cursory examination. The earliest signs that a tooth may be affected are often missed as being a change in behaviour or a slight discolouration to the surface of the tooth. In advanced stages, the teeth will often break, your dog may have foul smelling breath and eventually a tooth root abscess may form. Sometimes these lesions are only diagnosed when your pet is having a dental treatment or anaesthetic for another reason, as the whole mouth can be examined thoroughly.
In superficial decay, filling may be suitable but for more advanced lesions the tooth may need complete root canal treatment to save the tooth, or extraction.
Maintaining good oral hygiene is essential. Avoid treats such as sweets, biscuits and dried fruits.