Dental disease, also called periodontal disease, is one of the most common clinical conditions seen by our veterinarians. This comes as no surprise when we consider that most adult dogs and cats show some signs of the disease by the time they reach 3 years of age. If left untreated, pet dental disease can lead to pain, tooth loss, infection, and even damage to the vital organs, such as the heart. We’d like to place the spotlight on periodontal disease and what pet owners can do to prevent and treat this serious condition.
What Is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease in pets occurs when plaque film and tartar (hardened plaque) build up on the teeth both above and below the gumline. This accumulation irritates the gum tissue and allows bacteria to flourish, leading to damage of the supportive structures of the teeth, which are the gums and the fibrous connective tissue that connects the roots of the teeth to the surrounding alveolar bone. Significant pain, oral infection, bone and tooth loss, and even health problems and infections in other body systems such as the kidney and heart can occur as a result of an untreated periodontal disease.
Stages of Pet Dental Disease
Pet dental disease can be broken down into four stages, as follows:
Stage 1 – This early stage is characterized by gingivitis, which is inflammation of the gums in response to the presence of tartar and bacteria. You may observe some swelling of the gums. A thin red line on the gums next to the teeth may also be visible during this stage. A professional dental cleaning at this stage can help prevent progression and future tooth loss.
Stage 2 – Also known as early periodontitis, this stage occurs when there is a small amount of bone loss – less than 25% – visible on oral radiographs. You may notice inflammation of your pet’s gums, bad breath, and some visible plaque and tartar. A professional dental cleaning can help to thoroughly remove the plaque and tartar and to reverse the progress of dental disease.
Stage 3 – Serious dental damage begins to occur at stage 3, also known as moderate periodontitis when 25-50% bone loss is visible on oral radiographs. Gums will be swollen and irritated, and probably bleed easily. There is a loss of gum attachment to the tooth, forming areas known as periodontal pockets. Your pet may also experience bad breath and significant pain and need to have infected and/or damaged teeth removed.
Stage 4 – Extreme, chronic periodontal disease is evident in the 4th and final stage, where bone loss of 50% or higher is visible on oral radiographs. Your pet is not only in severe pain, but it also is at risk of losing multiple teeth, as well as systemic infection and damage to internal organs, due to bacteria from the mouth entering the bloodstream and spreading throughout the body.
Don’t wait until its too late. Schedule your pets yearly dental cleaning today. To help ensure that all pets are receiving the dental care that they need, we will be offering 20% dental procedures now through the end of February.