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This is part of a series on dental health. Check out the Complete Guide To Caring For Your Dog’s Teeth

The last few weeks, I’ve been trying to improve my dogs’ dental health.

Matilda and Cow both had some hardened, yellow tartar buildup that just wouldn’t budge. Allowing them to chew raw bones helped a little bit, but some of that stubborn tartar still remained.

I didn’t brush their teeth frequently because it seemed pointless. Cow was okay about it if she was sleepy, but Matilda would jerk away from me. In the past, she has had retained baby teeth and may have experienced pain while I tried to clean her teeth. Since she’s so tiny at just over 5 pounds, I’m concerned about getting toothpaste in her eye or causing her to injure herself while struggling if I restrain her.

One morning, I looked inside her mouth and noticed that one of her bottom teeth was brown. Or kind of greyish, blackish… anything but white, or even off-white or yellow. When I touched it, it moved.


Within seconds, my phone was in my hand. I called my vet for an examination later that day.

The vet looked inside her mouth and agreed that the tooth was dead and needed to be extracted. They took a blood sample to make sure it would be safe for her to go under anesthesia for a dental with extraction the next morning.

It was the second time in less than a year that Matilda would have to go under. That was a challenging 12 hours, but before I knew it, I was going back to the vet’s office to pick up my poor baby-child.

The veterinarian explained that the tooth was indeed rotten – and that Matilda was also missing a few teeth, as though they simply never grew in. We went home with medication for pain and inflammation, and a few days later, Matilda is doing well.

What I Wish I Had Done

As a pet blogger, not only for Little Dog Tips but a few of my clients’ blogs, I was incredibly disappointed that I had not noticed this rotten tooth before. But it was so tiny, and I can only get a few moments to look inside Matilda’s mouth before she pulls away.

For about two weeks leading up to the incident, Matilda was licking my sheets every night for about an hour before she would fall asleep. It was gross, and I had to change my sheets frequently. I suspected she was experiencing a bit of acid reflux after not eating for a few hours at night, but bedtime snacks weren’t helping.

She was licking the sheets because her tooth hurt, you guys!!

Leading up to the dental, I was calm and cool about everything. I had to be, because I didn’t want to make Matilda nervous. But now that she’s safe, my heart hurts. I wish I had noticed. I wish I had taken better care of her teeth. I feel like shit. Have I ever cursed on my blog before? Let’s not make that a habit… I feel like a stinky, rotten brown Chihuahua tooth.

But I need to be forgiving of myself and move on and commit to doing better.

Someone on Facebook posted about their dog who had gone through multiple tooth extractions despite doing what they could to take care of those teeth. I felt a little better after I saw that. It’s not just us.

And you guys. Most of you don’t have the opportunities that allow me to constantly research so much information about dog dental health. Others know more than me. But we all make mistakes, and no matter how much we care about our dogs, we can never be perfect dog parents/momagers/guardians.

UPDATE: Since this post was published, Matilda has not needed any more extractions, and she will have another dental sometime this year. In the meantime, here’s my complete guide to caring for your small dog’s teeth.

What To Do If Your Dog’s Tooth Is Loose

If your dog is under 2 years old, that loose tooth is probably just a baby tooth. Is it white, clean and attached to the root? Most of your dog’s baby teeth should be gone by 7 months, but some of Matilda’s fell out by the time she turned 2.

If your adult dog has a loose tooth, it could be due to rotting, like Matilda, or it could have cracked or loosened while they were chewing on something hard.

This is the one thing I do feel good about – I called the vet seconds after I noticed the tooth. But not everyone will know to do the same.

Whether it’s a tooth fracture or decay, it would be very painful if your dog’s loose tooth fell out on its own, or if you.. pulled it. Please don’t do that, no matter how little money you have to go to the vet.

The root of your dog’s tooth is exposed. It can become infected, especially because it’s already swarmed with bacteria. The infection can quickly spread to your dog’s jaw. It can even spread to their eyes and blind them. A dental with extractions is expensive – I put about $800 on my credit card for this, but I do live in an expensive region.

But the complications are much more expensive, painful and life-threatening. Apply for Care Credit. Ask your veterinarian about payment options. Borrow money. Use a credit card. Open a GoFundMe. Sell your nudes. Whatever it takes to get that loose tooth out of your dog’s head… please, please do it.

What’s Next

Now, I’m going to teach Matilda to LOVE brushing her teeth. This is going to take a few weeks, but hopefully we’ll get to a point where I can easily reach each and every tiny tooth with no struggling, no sass.

In the meantime, I already purchased a water additive that can help keep her mouth clean.

Update: I’ve created a complete guide with tips on how to keep your dog’s teeth clean – so far, so good, no more extractions!

Feel free to share your experiences, dental health tips and tribulations in the comments!

Lindsay Pevny
Lindsay Pevny lives to help pet parents make the very best choices for their pets by providing actionable, science-based training and care tips and insightful pet product reviews.

She also uses her pet copywriting business to make sure the best pet products and services get found online through catchy copy and fun, informative blog posts. She also provides product description writing services for ecommerce companies.

As a dog mom to Matilda and Cow, she spends most of her days taking long walks and practicing new tricks, and most nights trying to make the best of a very modest portion of her bed.

You'll also find her baking bread and making homemade pizza, laughing, painting and shopping.