Periodontal Disease

Often we forget that animals are susceptible to the same kinds of diseases as humans, and in some cases even more so. This is the case with periodontal disease. In fact, periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition affecting adult pets, despite the fact that it is almost entirely preventable.

February is National Pet Dental Month. We think that it is important to be informed about the importance of your pets dental health. Below is some general information about periodontal disease and why it is important to treat it. Call us today to schedule a free dental consultation for your pet and receive 10% off all dental procedures scheduled in the month of February.

What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is no different in pets than in humans. Periodontal disease is the destruction of bone, gum tissue and structures that hold teeth in place. Periodontal disease is caused by bacterial infection that spreads, unseen, beneath the gum line. As the disease progresses, it destroys the bone around the tooth roots leading to mobile, painful teeth. Dogs and cats with advanced periodontal disease often require oral surgery to extract many teeth.

How do I know if my pet has periodontal disease?
The truth is that you don’t. Unfortunately, by the time there are obvious indications of periodontal disease, such as bad breath and loose teeth, there is already significant damage. Periodontal disease begins and exists under the gumline where it is not visible. White teeth do not mean that your pet is free from disease. The only way to prevent or identify periodontal disease early is through regular veterinary dental cleanings under anesthesia, where the pet’s mouth is thoroughly evaluated, cleaned and all the teeth are radiographed to identify bone loss, periodontal pockets and other disease involving the tooth root and surrounding bone.

There are four recognized stages of periodontal disease in dogs and cats:

Stage 0: No gingivitis. Gums are smooth, thin, and pink. Bone attachment reaches to the base of the tooth crown.

Treatment Plan: Acclimate your pet to a toothbrush and pet toothpaste. Brushing daily is ideal.

Stage 1: Gingivitis only with no loss of bone attachment. Mild amount of plaque and tartar; gums have redness, rolled appearance at the margin.

Treatment Plan: Daily brushing will control the condition. Professional dental cleaning recommended now and every 12-18 months depending on how quickly the gingivitis worsens and tartar accumulates.

Stage 2: Early periodontitis. Moderate amount of plaque and tartar with plaque extending underneath the gum line. Increased redness and swelling of the gums, some pain in mouth, worsening breath odor. Mild pockets developing with bone loss around the tooth or teeth of less than 25%. Many of the symptoms are hidden and can only be found once the pet is under anesthetic.

Treatment Plan: Professional dental cleaning/ treatment strongly recommended now to remove tartar above and especially below the gum line. Follow through with daily home care. This will control the disease and improve the gingivitis, but not cure the disease. Once bone is lost, it is not replaced. Professional dental treatment should be performed approximately every 12 months,

Stage 3: Moderate periodontitis. Heavier amounts of plaque and tartar, severe inflammation, swelling and bleeding of the gums. Gum tissue receding around teeth with bone loss between 25-50%. The condition is painful. The breath is starting to smell putrid.

Treatment Plan: Professional dental treatment as soon as possible to stop the disease process and save as many teeth as possible. Radiographs, some extractions, and/or periodontal surgery are common in this stage. Daily home care is vital to preserve major teeth. Professional dentistry recommended every 6-12 months.

Stage 4: Advanced periodontitis. Extreme amounts of tartar, sever inflammation of the gums, plus around teeth, horrible breath. Very deep pockets with more than 50% bone loss, mobile teeth. Patient is definitely in pain, may not be eating well.

Treatment Plan: Professional dental treatment with antibiotic therapy as soon as possible. Radiographs and numerous extractions are to be expected. Home care should continue with any remaining teeth. Oral condition should be re-evaluated every 3-6 months.

How can I prevent periodontal disease?
Fortunately periodontal disease is very preventable. There are two key components to preventing periodontal disease in your pet – home dental care and annual veterinary dental care.  Imagine what your own mouth might be like if you never brushed your teeth. Your pet’s mouth is no different. Daily brushing remains the gold standard to prevent plaque and calculus and slow the progression of periodontal disease.  In addition, there are diets, treats, chews and water additives that have the Veterinary Oral Health Council seal of acceptance that can be used to assist you with your pet’s preventive oral healthcare program.

An annual visit for a veterinary dental cleaning is an important part of your pet’s oral health care program. Annual dental procedures under general anesthesia allow your veterinarian to visually examine each tooth and use a dental probe around each tooth, in addition to obtaining radiographs to evaluate the tooth structure that cannot be seen with the naked eye. When you do this regularly, your pet’s mouth is evaluated, thoroughly cleaned and any bacteria or beginnings of periodontal disease can be addressed immediately before it causes extensive and expensive damage. Your pet will thank you with a clean and healthy mouth!