Periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition affecting adult dogs and cats. It is a progressive disease that can cause bad breath, oral pain, and spread of bacteria from the mouth to the rest of the body. Fortunately, periodontal disease is preventable with both home dental care and routine veterinary dental care.
What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is the destruction of bone, gum tissue, and structures that hold the teeth in place. Just like in humans, periodontal disease starts out as a bacterial film on the teeth called plaque. The bacteria can then spread causing gingivitis, infection and inflammation below the gumline, and eventually destruction of bone leading to tooth loss.
How do I know if my pet has periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease occurs below the gumline where it is not visible. In advanced stages of the disease, you may notice that your pet has bad breath, loose, teeth, and a painful mouth. If your pet’s teeth appear white and clean, this does not mean that periodontal disease is not present!
The only way to identiy or prevent periodontal disease is through regular veterinary dental exams and cleanings. Anesthesia is required to assess your pet’s dental health below the gumline!
The KEY to periodontal disease is PREVENTION
The two components to preventing periodontal disease in your pet are home dental care and annual veterinary dental care.
· Daily brushing remains the gold standard recommended by veterinary dentists to prevent plaque and slow progression of periodontal disease. Many pets can be trained to accept and even like brushing. It is important to begin a brushing routine when your pet’s mouth is clean and healthy (a pet with oral pain may develop a negative association with brushing). Offer a positive reinforcement, such as a treat or toy, following brushing. Use a soft bristled toothbrush and a palatable pet toothpaste.
· Annual veterinary dental cleanings under anesthesia are an important part of your pet’s oral health routine. During this procedure, the veterinarian will visually examine each tooth and probe for pockets, which can result from periodontal disease. Dental radiographs (x-rays) can also be taken to look for dental disease below the gumline and to evaluate diseased teeth. An ultrasonic scaler is used to clean the visible area of the teeth and under the gums. Finally, the teeth are polished to eliminate the rough surface created by scaling. When this procedure is performed regulary, beginnings of periodontal disease can be addressed immediately before it causes extensive and expensive damage.