Periodontal disease is the most common disease affecting pets. Up to 85% of dogs and cats over the age of 3 are affected and it is 100% preventable!

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What is periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease is inflammation of some or all of a tooth's support. Periodontal disease includes gingivitis (inflammation/reddening of the gums) and periodontitis (loss of bone and soft tissue around the teeth).
Periodontal disease is the most common disease affecting pets. Up to 85% of dogs and cats over the age of 3 are affected and it is 100% preventable!

What causes periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease begins when bacteria in the mouth form a substance called plaque that sticks to the surface of the teeth. Subsequently, minerals in the saliva harden the plaque into dental calculus (tarter), which is firmly attached to the teeth. Tarter above the gum line is obvious to many owners, but it itself is not the cause of disease.

The real problem develops when the plaque and calculus spread under the gum line. It is this bacteria under the gum line that sets into motion a cycle of damage to the supporting tissues around the tooth. This eventually leads to loss of the tooth.

In addition to damage to the teeth and underlying structures, studies have shown that periodontal disease is associated with microscopic changes in the heart, liver, and kidneys.

What are the signs?

Halitosis or bad breath is the primary sign of periodontal disease. Dogs’ and cats' breath should NOT have a disagreeable odor.

As the disease progresses, a wide variety of signs may be noted:

  1. Broken tooth/teeth

  2. Excessive drooling

  3. Reluctance to eat, especially dry food, or to play with chew toys

  4. Chewing with or favoring one side of the mouth

  5. Pawing at or rubbing the muzzle/mouth

  6. Bleeding from the mouth

  7. Sudden change in behavior (aggressive or withdrawn)

  8. Chronic eye infections or drainage with no exact cause or cure

  9. Chronic sneezing

  10. Discolored tooth/teeth

  11. Abnormal discharge from nose

Many painful dental conditions develop gradually with age. As a result, behavior that the owner interprets as “acting grumpy” may be the result of dental pain. Owners often observe that their pet acts “years younger” following dental treatment.

How is periodontal disease diagnosed?

Bone loss from periodontal disease occurs below the gum line. In order to evaluate the stage of disease and the best treatment, your pet must be examined under general anesthesia. In addition to a visual examination, x-rays and instruments to measure bone loss are used.

  • Stage 1 gingivitis

  • Stage 2 early periodontitis-less than 25% support loss

  • Stage 3 established periodontitis- between 25-50% support loss

  • Stage 4 advanced periodontitis- greater than 50% support loss

How is periodontal disease treated?

Treatment of periodontal disease is multi-faceted.

  1. Professional dental cleaning- scaling and polishing of the teeth to remove plaque and tarter

  2. Thorough examination of each tooth and charting of any abnormalities

  3. Dental radiographs of any abnormal tooth to make a treatment plan

  4. Treatment of diseased teeth

Prevention is the key! What can you do?

  1. Home care- teeth brushing, dental treats/foods, etc

  2. Annual examination with your veterinarian

  3. Professional dental cleaning when early tarter is noted

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