Even though our pets don’t need to model their smiles for the camera, their teeth do matter. What starts as bad breath can quickly progress to periodontal disease, the single most commonly diagnosed condition in pets. So common, in fact, that by the time pets are 4 years of age, over 85% of them have some form of the disease.
Periodontal disease not only causes bad breath, but also causes bleeding gums, bacterial infections in the mouth, and loose or broken teeth. If left untreated, an eventual systemic disease of the liver, kidneys, and heart may occur.
The good news is that periodontal disease in pets is also preventable. Stone Ridge Veterinary Medical Center shows you how, here.
How Periodontal Disease in Pets Happens
The progression of periodontal disease in pets happens in stages.
- Periodontal disease begins when bacteria and food particles combine to form plaque on the teeth
- Minerals in the saliva cause plaque to harden into tartar within a few days
- The bacteria then work their way under the gum line causing inflammation and gingivitis
- Once under the gums, the bacteria destroy the supporting structures of the teeth (periodontitis), often resulting in tooth loss
The bacteria that cause periodontal disease don’t just stay in your pet’s mouth. They enter the bloodstream each time your pet chews and can affect the internal organs such as the liver, heart, and kidneys. There is some evidence that periodontal disease in pets can cause a shorter lifespan.
In cats, another common periodontal disease occurs. Tooth resorption is an extremely painful condition in which the tooth dentin erodes for unknown reasons. This condition is very common in cats and unfortunately, the only remedy is tooth extraction. It can be hard for pet owners to notice the signs, although eating on one side of the mouth and/or swallowing food without chewing may be noticed.
Signs of Pet Periodontal Disease
The signs of pet periodontal disease may be difficult for pet owners to notice, which is a great reason to have our veterinarians assess your pet’s teeth and oral health at least once a year. At Stone Ridge Veterinary Medical Center, we examine your pet’s mouth during their annual preventive care exam.
Bad breath is the most commonly noticed sign. You may also notice any or all of the following:
- Redness, swelling or bleeding of the gums
- Chewing on one side of the mouth
- Difficulty eating, which may manifest as messy eating
- Pawing at the mouth
- Loose teeth
- Discolored teeth
If you notice any of these signs, it’s imperative that you bring your pet in to see us right away. Contrary to popular belief, pets will usually not stop eating due to dental disease.
Treating and Preventing Periodontal Disease in Pets
Early pet periodontitis can be treated by thoroughly cleaning the teeth both above and below the gum line and polishing any rough surfaces that may have collected bacteria and plaque. Other techniques may include:
- Root canal
- Crown restoration
There are several techniques to prevent periodontal disease in pets. Daily tooth brushing at home is the most effective way to prevent plaque and tartar buildup on your pet’s teeth. You’ll need a small pet toothbrush or a finger brush and pet toothpaste. Human toothpaste should not be used as it can make your pet sick.
Mouth rinses, chews, and dental diets may also be recommended depending on your pet’s needs. They work through the abrasive action of chewing and may also contain enzymes that break down plaque. There’s no substitute for brushing, though.
Regular dental cleanings are also recommended for most pets. The frequency of these cleanings will depend upon your pet’s overall dental health and the degree of dental disease we see. This preventive care can allow us to examine every tooth and structure of the mouth and catch small problems early before they become an advanced disease.
Anesthesia is a necessary part of dental cleanings. Many pet owners express concern about the risks of anesthetic safety and the risks associated with dental cleanings. Luckily, anesthesia in veterinary medicine is safer than ever, thanks to advanced veterinary protocols, safer anesthetics, and human-grade monitoring equipment. Our skilled veterinary technicians take your pet’s safety and comfort seriously.
Anesthetic-free dental cleanings are ineffective since it’s impossible to clean under the pet’s gum line without it. Without addressing periodontal disease under the gumline, the bacteria and plaque that are left there continue to cause disease and discomfort, even after the “cleaning”.
If you have questions about periodontal disease in pets, contact your Willis vet. Our team is looking forward to seeing you and your pet soon.