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Knowing how to prevent and recognize signs of periodontal disease will allow you to keep your dog’s mouth healthy and comfortable.
What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease is inflammation of the oral cavity caused by plaque and tartar accumulation. It can vary in severity and is progressive without intervention and proper oral health.
What Causes Periodontal Disease?
Plaque is a sticky film that overlies the teeth, which is formed by bacteria. Over time, plaque hardens with the help of saliva and turns into tartar. The hard tartar allows more bacteria to colonize.
As this occurs, bacteria are able to force their way underneath the gingival tissue and exacerbate inflammation. Periodontal disease in dogs is often described in stages, with stage 1 being the least severe, and stage 4 being the most severe.
Signs of Periodontal Disease
Identifying signs of periodontal disease in dogs will enable you to seek intervention sooner.
Early signs of periodontal disease in dogs vary, however they may include:
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Redness of the gums and gum line (gingivitis)
- Thickened calculus (tartar) overlying the teeth
As the advanced periodontal disease worsens, additional signs may be noted including:
- Gingival recession (the gum pulls away from the crown of the tooth, leaving roots fully or partially exposed)
- Loose or missing teeth
- Hesitancy chewing
- Discharge from infection
- Pawing at the mouth
How to Slow and Prevent Periodontal Disease
Similar to people, physically removing bacteria and plaque is necessary. The very best way to achieve this is by brushing your pooches’ teeth often. This can sound like an easy task-however, not every dog likes its teeth brushed.
When trying to brush your companion’s teeth, please take these pointers into consideration:
- Inflamed gums are painful! Do not brush teeth when the gums are severely inflamed as this can lead to your pet being nervous about this task
- Do not feel that you have to brush all surfaces of your dog’s teeth. Instead, focus on cleaning the outside surface that comes into contact with the cheeks as this is the surface that accumulates the most tartar.
- Do not hold your pet’s mouth open and try to brush. Instead, gently close their mouth and slide the toothbrush or finger brush into the sides of their mouth. This will allow you to easily reach the carnassial teeth (the large teeth in the back of the mouth) which are known for accumulating tartar.
- Use toothpaste designed for dogs for proper oral hygiene
If you do attempt to brush your pet’s teeth, remember that brushing should be fun and stress-free. It might take several attempts and training before your pet is a willing participant.
It is best to introduce your dog to the art of brushing when they are puppies. Positive reinforcement is key.
Dental Chews and Treats
The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) is an organization that has evaluated several different types of oral chews, water additives and treats to determine if they truly reduce plaque and tartar accumulation. Look for treats/chew toys with the VOHC seal of approval when purchasing treats designed to improve dental health.
Routine Dental Cleanings
Speak to your veterinarian about the benefits of preventive dental cleanings. This is a general anesthetic procedure that entails cleaning, probing for pockets, dental radiographs, and polishing.
Small and toy breeds are predisposed to periodontal gum disease due to having small and crowded mouths. Interestingly, standard poodles and greyhounds are also known for developing significant dental diseases.
How to Cure Periodontal Disease in Dogs
Periodontal disease treatment in dogs will vary depending on severity. With early dental or gum disease, routine brushing can help keep disease at bay. The more severe dental disease will need to be addressed with anesthetic dental procedures and the proper treatment.
Dental radiographs are beneficial as they illustrate the degree of periodontal disease occurring beneath the gumline. In patients with severe gum disease, bone loss may be seen on radiographs. Bone loss can lead to infection and tooth mobility.
Teeth that are mobile or that are surrounded by areas of bone loss will need to be surgically extracted.
Once tartar accumulation has been removed and problematic teeth have been addressed, your pet will be significantly more comfortable as the inflammation resolves.
Unfortunately, the process leading to periodontal disease in dogs can reoccur quickly if proper preventative care is not initiated by the pet parents.
Proactive dental care is necessary to prevent and slow the progression of periodontal disease in dogs. Periodontal or gum disease often goes unnoticed as dogs rarely show hesitancy to eat, despite having significant painful changes occurring within their mouth.
Once significant periodontal disease in dogs has developed, a general anesthetic dental procedure is necessary to extract problematic teeth in your dog’s mouth and to rid the mouth of layers of accumulated plaque and tartar.
Dogs can live a long time with periodontal disease. The main concern is that a pet with moderate to severe gum disease is experiencing discomfort or chronic pain within the oral cavity.
Other health concerns can develop as well secondary to periodontal disease, including dental abscesses, jaw fractures and possibly endocarditis.
Endocarditis is a bacterial infection impacting the heart that occurs secondary to bacterial introduction into the bloodstream, which can be detrimental to your pet’s health.
The progression of periodontal or gum disease is patient-dependent. Some breeds are genetically predisposed to tartar accumulation. The size and shape of the mouth can influence the progression rate of periodontal disease.
Tartar can be noted in some dogs as early as one year of age. Unfortunately, plaque starts forming within days of a thorough dental cleaning. Proactive dental care will help slow the progression of periodontal disease in dogs and increase your dog’s oral health.