Do Maltese Have Dental Problems?

By John Martin - November 17, 2023

Maltese getting teeth checked at the vet

The Maltese may have one of the most effortlessly beautiful white coats out of all dog breeds but the same cannot be said about their teeth. We’ve put together this guide on everything you need to know about Maltese and their dental problems.

Do Maltese Have Dental Problems?

Yes, Maltese are more likely to suffer from dental problems compared to many other dog breeds. This does not mean that all Maltese dogs will have dental problems but that you must take extra care to protect your Maltese from dental issues.

Maltese are a small dog breed and like other small dogs, are prone to many dental problems. Small dogs are widely accepted as being more vulnerable to dental problems than larger dogs.

One of the main reasons for this is that in small dogs, the arrangement of teeth in the jaw is much more compact. As a result, there is more scope for the buildup of food particles and bacteria that can cause dental problems.

Late Weaning

Maltese dogs are far behind other dogs, especially dogs from larger breeds when it comes to the growth of their first set of teeth, also known as puppy teeth.

For most larger breeds, the first set of teeth might start appearing from the fourth week. However, Maltese dogs get their first teeth only after the fifth week and this process goes on very slowly for many weeks.

As a result, the Maltese cannot move to newer foods and do not eat in a very reliable manner for a much longer time compared to other dogs.

Retained Teeth

Maltese dogs not only have issues with growing their teeth but also with losing their teeth. Most dog breeds start losing their first set of teeth after around three months.

However, Maltese dogs lose their first set of teeth and get their adult teeth very slowly. Maltese can grow up to be five to six months old before it gets the adult set of teeth.

The process of the adult teeth growing can be very painful and might affect the dog’s eating habits. A Maltese dog might require special attention during the teething process so that it can be comfortable.

Often, for Maltese dogs, the first set of teeth might not have completely fallen out before the next set of adult teeth comes out. This is known as retained teeth.

This leads to overcrowding in the jaw and can be painful and uncomfortable for the dog. Overcrowding increases the risk of infection and it can also lead to the growth of misaligned adult teeth in the dog.

Also Read: 9 Common Maltese Health Issues to Watch Out For

Tooth Infection

Maltese dogs have small and compact jaws and as a result, a lot of food particles tend to get stuck between their teeth.

One of the significant issues faced by Maltese dogs is the build-up of plaque. Like humans, plaque can keep building up as a layer over the teeth every time the dog eats something.

Plaque is a common issue that can be dealt with easily with some dental hygiene practices. However, if neglected, plaque can lead to the formation of tartar.

Removing tartar can be a slightly more complex process. Plaque and tartar together can be extremely harmful to the oral health of the Maltese dog.

Plaque and tartar eat away at the enamel or protective layer of the teeth. The deposit builds up in the corners of the gums of the dog.

Slowly, this build-up of plaque and tartar can lead to a tooth infection. This tooth infection does not stay limited to the teeth.

The tooth infection can get infectious below the gums and start spreading in the bones of the jaw. If the tooth infection is not treated immediately, it can lead to serious health issues in vital organs like the liver, heart, lungs, etc.

When the build-up of tartar goes out of hand and starts infecting the gums of the mouth, it can lead to the extremely painful condition of gingivitis. Gingivitis refers to the swelling and infection of gums to the point where it can lead to loss of teeth.

Build up of tartar can also lead to periodontal issues, which are to do with the jaw. The tooth infection can lead to loss of bone and soft tissue around the jaw of the dog.

The dog’s oral health goes hand in hand with its general physical health and none can be ignored.

On one hand, periodontal disease can lead to harmful bacteria entering the dog’s bloodstream and causing great harm to the dog’s other internal organs such as the stomach, liver, lungs, etc.

On the other hand, chronic problems with the dog’s general physical health or any deep-rooted health conditions can exacerbate the dog’s oral health condition and lead to more severe periodontal issues.

Tooth Decay

Maltese dogs have small teeth that need to be cleaned very frequently from a young age. If there is negligence in cleaning the dog’s teeth, food particles might remain stuck for long periods.

This leads to a buildup of bacteria that finally causes a cavity in the teeth. If the cavity is not treated in time, it can lead to tooth decay.

A decayed tooth often has brown spots and a cavity. If the decay spreads further, the gum below the tooth will also become brown and soft while the tooth becomes loose.

Tooth decay cannot be reversed and the tooth will need to be extracted if the decay spreads too far.

Also Read: Do Maltese Like to Cuddle?

How to Take Care of Your Maltese

Though Maltese dogs might be very vulnerable to dental problems compared to other dog breeds, it does not necessarily mean that your Maltese’s dental health is already doomed.

It is essential to take special care of your Maltese dog’s dental health to avoid any severe risks to the dog’s health. Dental health issues getting out of hand can lead to serious health complications and can significantly reduce your dog’s life span as well.

Dental hygiene might not be taken well by your pet Maltese because they can tend to be uncomfortable processes. However, the key here is to make sure that you are creating a habit for your Maltese from an early age.

One of the basic ways of ensuring dental hygiene is to brush your Maltese dog’s teeth. You must start this as early as possible because your dog will be uncomfortable with this process until it gets used to it.

To brush your Maltese dog’s teeth, you need to use an appropriate dog toothpaste as toothpaste used by humans can have toxic substances that will harm your dog’s health.

You can use either a toothbrush that slips onto your forefinger or you can use toothbrushes that have bristles on three sides to clean your dog’s teeth thoroughly.

Though it is ideal to make brushing a part of your Maltese’s daily hygiene routine, you can also do it a few times a week to see significant benefits.

If your Maltese is not comfortable with brushing even after trying for some time, worry not because there are alternative ways to ensure hygiene.

You can use mouthwashes and liquid oral hygiene products that are designed to reduce the build-up of plaque and tartar from your dog’s mouth. These products also need to be used regularly or daily for you to reap the benefits.

Besides these, there is also the very convenient option of dental health chews and treats. These are like regular treats and your dog will not be able to tell the difference.

However, these treats are specially designed to reduce the build-up of plaque and tartar in your Maltese dog’s mouth.

If you have, for any reason, failed to ensure your Maltese dog’s dental hygiene, you might be in a position where your dog has already developed an infection.

In that case, you will need to seek treatment and dental hygiene assistance from professionals. Professionals might extract a tooth in the case of a deep infection.

Otherwise, they can remove the build-up of plaque and tartar and do a general checkup of your dog’s oral health.

Irrespective of dental disease, regular check-ups for your dog’s oral health are highly recommended. The doctor will check for signs of disease and treat any small build-up of plaque or tartar that may have occurred.

Besides, the veterinarian may also carry out scaling of your dog’s teeth. Scaling may be done manually or through ultraviolet rays.

All procedures take place under general anesthesia so there are no issues with older dogs who may be reluctant to have their teeth checked.

After this, if you make sure to follow the doctor’s advice and take care of your dog’s dental health on a daily basis, you might not need to make another visit to the vet for the same reason.

Also Read: Why Do Maltese Lick So Much?

Bottom Line

Maltese dogs are prone to various dental problems such as late weaning, retained teeth, plaque, tartar and tooth infection. However, regularly taking care of your dog’s dental health can ensure that you can prevent all these issues promptly.