All About Teeth

Periodontal disease is one of the most common diseases seen in veterinary clinics, affecting 70-80% of cats and dogs worldwide

Periodontal disease is defined as disease of the structures surrounding and supporting the tooth including the gum, the bone of the jaw, and the ligament holding the tooth in the bone

There are two types of periodontal disease: Gingivitis and Periodontitis

Gingivitis

This is inflammation of the gums. This is the earliest stage of periodontal disease and is reversible with treatment. The clinical features are listed below:

  • Redness
  • Swelling of the gum
  • Discharge of pus
  • Gums bleed easily

Periodontitis

This is inflammation of the gums and surrounding tissue with irreversible loss of bone and connecting ligament. The clinical features are listed below:

  • All of the signs of gingivitis, as well as:
  • Bad breath
  • Possibly visible pain on eating
  • Looseness of teeth
  • Retraction of gums

Untreated periodontal disease causes any or all of the following:

  • Pain
  • Tooth loss
  • Bacteria in the blood stream
  • Abscess formation
  • Halitosis (bad breath)
  • Difficulty in chewing
  • Bone loss with subsequent fracture of the jaw
  • Affect heart, liver, kidneys, joints and brain

Untreated periodontal disease is a major cause of a serious reduction of the quality of life, particularly of older pets, and frequently causes premature death through secondary effects such as kidney failure. Smaller breed dogs or brachycephalic (squashed faced) animals are at a higher risk than other breeds. The shape of their mouths often mean they have teeth which overlap. Tartar between these teeth is harder to remove with normal chewing activity, even when bones are fed.

Causes

Periodontitis is caused by bacteria living in the mouth. They form plaque, which eventually hardens to become tartar (calculus) and invade the gums and surrounding tissue. Every time an animal with periodontal disease chews on food, some of these bacteria are injected into the bloodstream: from there they end in the kidneys.

Treatment

Our main aim should be prevention through good oral hygiene, such as regular chewing or brushing. However where the disease already exists it is necessary to:

  • Scale the teeth to remove tartar and plaque
  • Perform root planing to remove tartar below the gums
  • Polish the teeth (a smooth surface reduces new plaque formation)
  • Depending on the severity, it may also be necessary to extract teeth that are impossible to save
  • X-ray teeth that are of concern and treatment is not obvious

Maintenance

1. Home care
Diet: more chewing for example raw bones, prescription t/d diet.
Brushing with special toothpaste designed for dogs and cats must be used. Human toothpaste is harmful to animals. You will also need an animal designed toothbrush. Teeth brushing is very effective if done every day.
Chemical: There are a range of products available to chemically reduce plaque on teeth. Please read ‘Dental Products’ for more information.

2. Follow-up periodontal treatment
Regular dental examinations are recommended to monitor the formation of tartar on your pet’s teeth. The examinations may be as frequent as every month till we find a health care plan to reduce tartar on your pet’s teeth. The plan is very individual and it can take time to figure out the best products for your pet’s teeth. If your pet’s teeth have tartar forming and gingivitis, then a general anesthetic and a teeth scale is recommended to prevent any further damage from bacteria and plaque.

Dental examination are complimentary, so book in today to help your pet’s oral hygiene

About the author: Megan Reilly

Megan is a Veterinary Nurse Technician - the highest qualification available to Veterinary Nurses in Australia, Megan has a fun loving spirit and brings a positive energy to Heights Pet Hospital. She is a talented nurse who has a love for all patients and is continuously updating our processes and procedures, always finding a better or more effective way. She has been at the hospital since its opening in 2011 and in the veterinary industry since 2000, starting out as a kennel hand and then completing veterinary nursing cert IV in 2006. She has also undertaken additional study, gaining her qualification as a Veterinary Nurse Technician in 2015. Megan runs our puppy school classes and has a special interest in canine behaviour. She continues to give back to the industry with her dedication to training new veterinary nurses and work experience students. Megan has Trevor, a black domestic short hair cat with a penchant for extravagant bow ties! and Howard, a fiesty Border-Terrier.

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