One of my friends (a Pom person) asked me recently how I got Lizzie to tolerate me messing with her mouth so much- she’s the only dog in her handling class of the table breeds that allows the teacher acting as ‘judge’ to really mess with her mouth, and this lead into a discussion about dental care (Lizzie figures any time you touch her mouth, she’s about to get TOOTH PASTE. Dog toothpaste is, as far as I can tell, liver-flavored baking soda. It smells foul and dogs love it. UGH.)
Although food companies like to tout the abrasive teeth-cleaning properties of kibbles, most kibbles are full of carbs (sugars) and not actually all that abrasive to teeth. While chewing does dislodge food particles to some extent, try eating grapenuts and see how much it really does to clean your teeth! Then imagine a diet of nothing but grapenuts for years on end. In the wild, wolves (and feral dogs) die when their teeth get bad. Luckily, eating bones and hair *does* do a fair bit to keep teeth clean. So providing chew things- raw bones are best, rawhides and booda bones, nylabones, and greenies are okay too- helps, but doesn’t totally prevent teeth from needing help to stay clean.
The real truth is that good nutrition and general vet care (combined with kibble) means that more dogs outlive their teeth all the time- so senior teeth cleaning is in MOST dogs’ future. Brushing their teeth a couple times a week can prevent this- but most of us aren’t as diligent as we should be about this.
Small breeds- mittelspitz among them- and brachycephalic breeds (bostons, Frenchies, etc) are especially prone to dental problems. They’ve typically got largeish teeth crammed into less space than other dogs with more moderate structure, and (especially in the case of the toys), they’ve often got teeth that are VERY shallowly rooted, which means that infections in the gums can move into the bones of the jaw scarily fast. From my reading, spitz aren’t prone to this any more than any other small or medium breed- but I want to make sure Lizzie’s got nice sharp white teeth as long as possible. 😛
Mal, on the other hand, would like her defanged. She plays dirty when they wrestle….
*Edited to fix an error- I originally wrote this to address a specific person. 😛