Black Line On Dog Tooth: Bad News, Or Benign?

When you discover a black line on your dog’s tooth, you may understandably wonder what it is and where it came from.

Dogs are known to bite and chew into almost anything that they can find. Occasionally, this can result in an unsightly stain appearing on their teeth (that can sometimes even be silver!).

This stain can appear as a black spot or line that has resulted from gnawing of chew toys or through eating and drinking dark-colored foods.

However, another possible cause of black lines on dog teeth is the presence of bacteria.

Dental diseases are an extremely common issue in dogs (affecting over 80% of dogs over 3 years of age, according to some reports) and yet can be a difficult one to identify since the symptoms are often very subtle.

It is therefore vital to examine your pup’s teeth frequently and regularly brush them in order to prevent dental issues from escalating and getting out of hand!

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What Does A Black Line On Your Dog’s Tooth Mean? Causes of Black Lines On Dog Teeth

Closeup of dog teeth tartar

Black lines on a dog’s tooth are typically caused by either stains or bacteria.

Staining could be the result of one of the following three factors:

  • Biting or gnawing on dark objects;
  • Eating or drinking darker colored foods or liquids;
  • Taking certain medications.

Despite their unattractive appearance, stains can be easily removed and should not cause further issues in the future.

In the alternate scenario, many pooches may incur a black line on their teeth due to an overabundance of bacteria in the dog’s mouth that has resulted from poor dental hygiene. In other words, the blackening of teeth can be a result of tooth decay.

When the teeth are not cleaned thoroughly, food debris is left on the surface. The bacteria inside the mouth will then have the opportunity to grow and spread, releasing acid to break down the sediment.

The released acid also has the ability to damage the enamel (the outer layer of teeth).

Depending on the location of the bacteria, it can either cause cavities or gingivitis which can then lead to periodontal disease. Some pets can experience both at the same time.

Over time and in severe cases, decay of teeth and gums can lead to tooth loss.

Finally, a black line could also be a result of black pigmented bacteria that has accumulated on the surface of the teeth and beneath the gum line.

Signs of An Oral Problem

Dental or gum issues are typically accompanied by subtle signs which can be difficult to identify.

For example, a dog or puppy that previously didn’t know what it meant to stop eating may suddenly become a picky eater due to developing oral health issues.

A sudden change in feeding behavior often requires further investigation to prevent an imbalance in blood sugar levels, especially in diabetic dogs.

Behaviors that your dog may exhibit when they have an oral problem can include:

  • Chewing on one side of their mouth
  • Swallowing food in one piece
  • Choosing softer foods
  • Being less playful with chew toys
  • Ignoring hard or crunchy food
  • Avoiding physical touch around their face
  • Excessive drooling
  • Elongated saliva with or without blood
  • Blood on chewed objects

These signs can significantly impact the health and wellbeing of any dog. It is therefore important to address the root cause as soon as possible.

Recognizing Periodontal Disease In Canines

Dog gingivitis and tartar

Black lines or spots on a dog’s teeth can often be associated with periodontal disease.

If the black lines appear along the gum line where the teeth and gum meet, it is a good indication that your dog could be suffering from this disease.

Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is a complicated issue and is broadly separated into four stages starting from gingivitis to advanced periodontitis.

Accumulated bacteria from poor dental hygiene spreads and causes gingivitis, a condition where the gums become inflamed.

Thankfully it is a reversible affliction, and even though the gums may become inflamed there should be no significant changes to the bone or tooth at the outset.

If the inflammation is prolonged, it can damage supporting structures of the teeth. At this stage, the disease will have progressed from gingivitis to periodontitis.

The symptoms are usually subtle, and any visual signs can be hidden which makes it even more difficult to spot.

It is therefore essential to implement good dental hygiene practices early on in order to prevent the advancement of dental diseases.

Recommended approaches to reduce plaque include brushing teeth, mouth rinses, homemade water additives, dental chews (like Dentastixjust don’t feed too many!), and teeth wipes.

First Stage Of Periodontal Disease

Close up of early dog teeth decay

In the earliest stages of periodontal disease, dark stains known as plaque begin depositing onto the teeth close to the gum line.

Another common sign of fledgling periodontal disease is halitosis- otherwise more commonly known as bad breath.

To combat the bacteria formed along the gum line, blood flow that contains immune cells is increasingly sent to the affected area.

The gum region between teeth known as the gingiva becomes red, puffy, and fragile, resulting in the condition known as gingivitis.

At this stage, a pet owner may see blood when their dog chews on objects or when their teeth are being cleaned. Blood may also appear in the dog’s water bowl

As it is still early in terms of the progression of the illness at this point, as long as the cause is addressed the inflammation should subside, and the dog will be able to continue chewing on its favorite treats!

Treatment Options

With appropriate daily dental care, gingivitis is not usually a significant issue. Proper dental care will involve thoroughly brushing the dog’s teeth and providing dental chews where possible.

When brushing your pup’s teeth, you can use a finger toothbrush which can be found at your local pet supplies store or online via Amazon.

If you cannot obtain a finger toothbrush for dogs, a human toothbrush is also fine.

When cleaning your pooch’s teeth, it could be worthwhile to try to apply pet-friendly toothpaste like this one from Vet’s Best.

Just keep in mind that it may not be well tolerated initially due to the undoubtedly strange texture and taste!

Never use human toothpaste as it can be very toxic for canines to ingest.

Not only may it not contain the requisite enzymes needed to break down plaque in animal mouths, but it may also contain ingredients such as xylitol that could make your dog very sick.

Chews such as bully sticks or pig ears can be ideal for cleaning your dog’s teeth as they will be able to clean areas that are otherwise difficult to reach.

More specifically, they will target the molars and premolars at the back of the mouth where the majority of the chewing happens.

Second Stage Of Periodontal Disease

Second stage dog plaque
Not the most flattering of photos, but dog tooth decay is no joke!

During the second stage of periodontal disease, some teeth may become loose as the supporting structures such as bone are at risk of becoming weaker.

At this stage, dog owners may potentially see the first black lines along the gum line as the bacteria spreads along the teeth and beneath the gums.

Plaque takes around three days before it mineralizes to tartar. Tartar is the primary substance which gives the black color, and it also provides a better surface for plaque deposition.

Besides bad breath and inflamed gums, you may also begin to see initial signs of gum recession and deeper periodontal pockets. Receding gums are frequently the first clearly visible sign of periodontitis.

Gums normally appear as waves of tissue. If the gum line appears to be straight, or if there is an undeniable loss of gum width, it could be a sign of gingival recession.

The prognosis for the second stage remains decent as long as the appropriate dental procedures are implemented.

Treatment Options

During the second stage of periodontal disease, you will need to regularly clean your dog’s teeth and provide dental chews.

It is also recommended to get professional dental cleaning services from a professional vet.

This will involve a deep clean of gum pockets and possible application of antibiotic ointment to help seal the pockets and limit damage towards the supporting structures of the teeth.

Third Stage Of Periodontal Disease

Close up of tartar on dog teeth

At stage three of the disease, more tartar will have formed as plaque mineralizes. Increased tartar deposits can produce a dark line along the dog’s tooth.

At this stage, it can be difficult to determine the extent of damage as much of the supporting structures surrounding the teeth have gradually been chipped away.

Not only would there be a higher degree of bone loss at this point, but there would also be more irregular gum pockets.

Besides the general symptoms mentioned in stage two such as red, sensitive gums and stinky breath, there may also be even more gum recession and potential loss of teeth.

Treatment Options

You will need to consult with a vet at Stage Three in regards to the appropriate treatment options.

They will likely first use an X-ray to determine the extent of the damage, and the dog will undoubtedly require professional cleaning procedures.

If there are any detached gums around the teeth, the vet will also be required to provide advanced periodontal treatment and advise a specialized home-care regimen.

Some teeth will need to be removed if required to prevent the condition from spreading further and infecting the rest of the mouth.

Fourth Stage of Periodontal Disease

Dog teeth tartar infection

An examination of the teeth and gums via X-ray and periodontal probing may reveal a loss of the teeth’s structural integrity.

During this stage, symptoms such as loose teeth or loss of teeth, exposed teeth roots, and formation of pus can be seen.

In advanced cases of periodontitis, your dog may experience other conditions ranging from tooth abscesses to organ damage as the toxins produced from bacteria can be released into the bloodstream.

At this stage, multiple types of interventions may be required to not only address the infection occurring within the mouth, but also other issues in the surrounding tissues including the eyes and nose.

Treatment Options

At Stage Four, tooth extraction will be inevitable for those molars that are beyond saving.

If the infected teeth are left as they are, it will cause a substantial amount of pain for your dog and may also further infect the remaining survivors.

The procedure can be costly, but it will improve your dog’s wellbeing and could potentially save its life.

If there are any other symptoms present, your vet will also provide the appropriate treatment to prevent any issues from further escalating.

Overall, it is crucial to address any oral issues your dog may have as soon as possible to prevent the problem from getting out of control and increasing the costs of medical assistance.

Dental Cavities

Dog teeth with cavities close up

A black line on a dog’s tooth could be indicative of tooth decay and cavities.

Dental cavities, also known as canine caries, occur when bacteria remain in the mouth and secrete acids that break down food debris as well as the outer layers of teeth.

The black lines in this case are caused by pigmented bacteria and tartar deposits resulting from mineralized plaque.

The dark spots usually start out in a small region of the bone, but can then spread and infect the entire tooth.

With poor dental hygiene, the cavity will eventually carve its way into the inner layers and damage the roots of the teeth. As a result of this, the teeth will lose their integrity and may fall out.

The more the bacteria damages the teeth, the more difficult it becomes to treat the condition. It is therefore always best to maintain healthy dental hygiene to prevent the formation of cavities.

Cavities also cause a significant amount of pain and can make chewing difficult. Your dog may smack their lips during the middle of the night to help them overcome the irritation and pain caused by the condition.

Other signs your dog may show if they are suffering from a dental problem include:

  • Rejecting sweet, cold or hot foods
  • Yelping or reacting in pain when biting on food
  • White or brown-colored stains on tooth enamel

Treatment For Canine Cavities

When it comes to treating canine cavities, the proper approach will depend on the extent of damage that has been incurred.

If the cavity has yet to form, small amounts of fluoride may be used to protect the teeth as the negative ion will promote remineralization of the covered tooth.

When tartar is apparent along the teeth, it can be removed using ultrasonic dental equipment at your vet’s office.

If the cavity has already formed, it cannot be reversed. During the initial stages of cavity formation, the affected enamel and dentin is removed. The crown is then replaced.

Once the pulp is infected and blood can no longer enter, the infected tooth will need to be treated via a root canal.

This process involves removal of the infected tissues, cleaning out the root canal, and finally followed by fillings and crown restoration.

During the later stages of tooth decay, the infected teeth will need to be fully extracted if it appears to be no longer functional.

A sealant may be applied on the neighboring teeth to prevent formation of cavities in other areas.

Once removed, the surrounding teeth will make up for the gap and chewing should not be impaired.

If you do not address the dental cavity immediately, it can lead to further problems such as:

  • Difficulty chewing
  • Constant oral pain
  • Infected teeth
  • Greater risk of cracked and chipped teeth
  • Teeth falling out

Your dog may begin displaying abnormal behaviors such as chewing on air in an attempt to relieve the pain they are experiencing from the infected teeth.

How Can I Clean My Dog’s Teeth Without Going To The Vet? Preventative Measures for Dental Problems

PetzLife Peppermint Oral Care Gel, 12-Ounce

For an extremely Extensive Guide on How To Clean Your Dog’s Mouth Thoroughly (especially after they’ve eaten something horrific (…like poop), click HERE!

To prevent the development of cavities or any dental issues in your dog, regular treatment should be carried out.

There are various methods to maintaining healthy canine teeth, beginning with the brushing of teeth with a dog-friendly toothpaste.

Products such as Petzlife gel will help to break up and remove tartar with natural, holistic ingredients.

Dental chews will also help to take the plaque off your pup’s teeth. For heavy chewers, hard treats such as Himalayan dog chews can be a great option- especially as they have limited ingredients.

Drinking water regularly can help remove plaque and food debris embedded within the teeth and prevent damage that otherwise would be caused by bacteria.

When it comes to play, you may need to opt for softer, teeth-friendly toys for dogs to chew on to prevent cracked teeth. Objects such as tennis balls or rubber toys can be an excellent option if you want a softer option.

Finally, one of the most effective preventative approaches is simply to provide a healthy diet that doesn’t contain excessive amounts of sugar.

Sugar provides the ideal fuel for bacteria to produce more harmful acid that has the ability to break down the structural integrity of your dog’s teeth- so paws off the cherry pie!

It is important to regularly conduct oral examinations to identify cavities or infections. If possible at all, regularly visit your vet for an oral examination and ask for professional dental cleaning services if needed.

In Summary

To be succinct: Black lines on a dog’s tooth can be caused by stains or bacteria.

Stains can develop from chewing or eating dark-colored treats or medication, as well as biting on black objects.

If the cause is bacteria, it is important to immediately address the issue as it could be a sign of the presence of dental cavities or periodontal disease.

Black lines can be quickly resolved as long as the appropriate medical attention is provided.

To prevent costly consequences, it is always better to implement preventative measures as quickly as possible that will help to maintain your dog’s dental health and wellbeing!

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