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Periodontal Disease and Your Pet

Over 80% of dogs and cats over the age of 3 suffer from periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is when the gums, periodontal ligament and bone around the teeth become inflamed; losing the ability to secure and protect the teeth they hold. Gum inflammation, gum recession and tooth loss can occur. In severe cases, the infection can enter through the bloodstream and spread to vital organs, causing systemic infection and organ damage.

By the time dogs and cats reach the age of one, they will already have a grade of periodontal disease because of how quickly plaque and tartar forms. Plaque is the soft substance that sticks to the enamel in a matter of 20 minutes after feeding time. As bacteria in the plaque dies, it absorbs calcium through the enamel and hardens onto the enamel surface. This hardened substance is now called tartar which can form in a short 3-5 days’ time. Even a toothbrush cannot remove calculus once formed. The untreated calculus will continue to build up above and below the gums, leading to the damage of the supporting structures around a tooth. The infection then can quickly spread to multiple teeth inside the mouth. 

Factors that determine why your pet may develop periodontal disease at a faster rate compared to others may include their age, species, breed, genetics, chewing behavior, diet, and home care. Other factors can include your pets’ grooming habits, congenital disorders, and how their mouth is shaped (teeth on teeth contact, causing orthodontic occlusions). 

To be able to recognize periodontal disease, pet owners should know the signs associated with abnormal oral health. This includes halitosis (bad breath), difficulty in eating, pawing at the mouth, hypersalivation, or swelling under the eyes that could indicate a tooth abscess. Other signs include gingival bleeding while eating, or an animal that is sensitive to its mouth being touched. 

Although the damages of periodontal disease are irreversible, the disease can be controlled with the help of a dental prophylaxis (dental cleaning). The dental prophylaxis is a multi-step cleaning procedure designed to slow or prevent the progression of periodontal disease. Under anesthesia and a doctor’s eye, hand and power instruments are used to remove calculus around the gumline that toothbrushes cannot remove. A complete dental exam is performed to record loose teeth, enamel fractures, cavities, gum recession, and other abnormalities. Dental radiographs are also performed for further diagnostic purposes.

Here are some at-home tips to improve your pet’s oral health and slow the progression of periodontal disease: 

  • Have your pet’s teeth cleaned annually by your veterinarian.
  • Daily brushing is the most effective home care and is often considered to be the GOLD STANDARD. Tooth brushing should not be done with humane toothpaste as it contains chemicals toxic to animals. Be sure to use toothpaste made specifically for your pet. 
  • Dental gel, sprays, and oral powders can be added to your pet’s water and food to prevent plaque from sticking to the enamel during mealtime. 
  • Dental diets have specially designed kibbles made to produce a soft abrasive effect on the enamel surfaces. Please ask our staff to learn more about these specially formulated diets.
  • Oral exercise toys can be used to help strengthen the gums. The gums are the first line of defense in periodontal disease!
  • Oral chews, tartar sticks, and dental treats can also be used to slow the accumulation of plaque and calculus.

Ultimately, providing at home quality oral health care helps prolong our pets’ survival and longevity. Remember: the oral cavity is a window for all internal infections. It is important to have your pets mouth examined and cleaned in the same manner as you would your own. Patience, compliance, and commitment will greatly raise the level of success of dental health in your pet. Schedule a dental exam with us today to learn more about periodontal disease and what you can do to help control its progression.

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