Senior Dental Care: Never Too Old For Good Dental Health

By: Heidi Lobprise, DVM, DAVDC

The prevalence of periodontal disease increases as age increases and body weight decreases (large dogs vs. small dogs). Similar to other chronic processes, particularly ones with tissue loss (gingival and bone), this disease is likely to worsen without intervention until the final phase of periodontal disease – tooth loss. The coinfluence relationship of dental disease with diabetes and renal disease underscores the importance of addressing issues in senior animals before they cause more problems.

Dentistry and blood work can help support each other’s efforts: if a recent senior diagnostic screening has been performed, now would be a good time to get the patient’s dental work accomplished. If dental care is needed, now would be a good time to update the patient’s laboratory values, especially if this screening has been declined in the past. While not common, it is possible to pick up on underlying, occult disease when performing a patient’s perspective screening.

As Patients Get Long in the Tooth


Periodontal disease has an increased incidence in senior animals, as do any of the dental conditions that can increase over time, such as a tooth resorption or stomatitis in cats. Extensive periodontal disease that has destroyed mandibular bone at the level of the first molar can lead to pathological fractures, sometimes bilaterally, that have insufficient osseous structure for stabilization. (Figure 1).

Senior cats may exhibit a thickening of the alveolar bone surrounding the canine teeth, especially the maxillary ones, with a concurrent super-eruption of the teeth, making them look longer than normal (Figure 2) The chronic osteitis or alveolitis may be minor, with periodontal management sufficient for treatment. If the tooth is mobile or the surrounding tissues are inflamed, extraction may be the best route.

Oral tumors are also seen more frequently in senior patients, and early detection and identification of any masses can provide the only possibility for adequate treatment. In dogs, melanocytic tumors, fibrosarcomas, and squamous cell carcinomas (gingival, lingual, tonsillar) are the most common masses found in cats.

If you have been struggling with your pet’s bad breath and putting off their dental appointment, now is a great time to schedule a dental appointment for your pet. Learn more about your pet’s dental appointment here. Dental consultations are free and teeth cleaning is 10% off in November. Call us at (775) 329-4106 to schedule an appointment for your pet.