Dental Disease in your pet – More common than you think!

By February 10, 2019 Uncategorized

Dental disease is surprisingly common with most pets over 2-3 years of age already having some evidence of periodontal disease.  It starts with soft plaque buildup (brushing teeth helps prevent this step) that hardens to tartar that contains bacteria. The plaque, tartar, and bacteria below the gumline cause significant damage to the jaw bone and structures holding the teeth in place.  This chronic source of inflammation also can damage the kidneys, liver, heart and other organs.  The tartar that is visible can be an indication of the severity of periodontal disease below the gumline.  Periodontal disease is graded on a scale of 0-4:

 Stage 0-  No sign of plaque or calculus

 Normal, healthy teeth. Pink gums and no plaque buildup.  Home dental care is needed to maintain these healthy teeth and gums. Brushing your pet’s teeth regularly is ideal. There are also products available to help make home dental care easier.

CANINE:

Stage 1 Gingivitis

A red line appears at the gum line. While the teeth still appear somewhat healthy, plaque and tartar are beginning to develop and the health of the mouth is beginning to decline. These are reversible changes with home dental care! If no improvement, dental cleaning will be needed to remove current plaque buildup.

Stage 2 Early Periodontitis

Gum tissue around the teeth is red and swollen. Inflammation can progress to an infection. This can lead to discomfort for the pet, and bad breath may become noticeable.  A professional cleaning is recommended at this point. These are reversible changes with treatment!

Stage 3 Established Periodontitis

Unfavorable bacteria are present. Ulcerations, receding gums, root exposure and plaque buildup may be present. Some tooth loss is probable. This condition may be painful. Bad breath is evident. The teeth must be cleaned and a thorough assessment of the periodontal disease is needed immediately. A calculus control diet and home care are needed afterward to prevent recurrence.

Stage 4 Advanced Periodontitis

The mouth is full of bacteria and disease, and some teeth are likely abscessed. Teeth are falling out and the gums are severely inflamed and infected. The roots are infected and exposed. The condition is probably painful. The Heart, Liver, and Kidneys are being affected by blood borne bacteria. Dental cleaning and assessment of periodontal disease is needed immediately. Some teeth may need extraction. Home dental care will be needed afterwards to stop progression of this disease.

        FELINE:

Stage 1 Gingivitis   

Mild plaque present, mild gingivitis with redline at gum margin, no bone loss, reversible changes with home dental care! If no improvement, dental cleaning will be needed to remove current plaque buildup. Is reversible with treatment.

Stage 2 Early Periodontitis

Moderate plaque, tartar covers less than 50% of tooth, moderate gingivitis, possible swollen gums, odor is noticeable. Less than 25% bone loss. A professional cleaning is recommended at this point. These changes are reversible with treatment.

Stage 3 Established Periodontitis

Moderate tartar, tartar covers 50-80% of the tooth, severe gingivitis, greater than 25% bone loss likely, gingival recession, sore mouth. Gums bleed easily. The teeth must be cleaned and a thorough assessment of the periodontal disease is needed immediately. A calculus control diet and home care are needed afterward to prevent recurrence.

 

Stage 4 Advanced Periodontitis

Severe tartar, tartar covers 80-100% of tooth, Severe gingivitis, greater than 50% bone loss with severe recession, loose teeth, and very painful.  Chronic infection is destroying the gums, teeth and supporting bone. The Heart, Liver and Kidneys are being affected by blood borne bacteria, and bone infection and weight loss can be present.  Dental cleaning and assessment of periodontal disease is needed immediately. Some teeth may need extraction. Home dental care will be needed afterwards to stop progression of this disease.

Because the majority of damage caused by periodontal disease is below the gumline, anesthesia is necessary to do a thorough oral exam and cleaning.   Each individual tooth is evaluated for potential pockets between the gum and the tooth root using a probe.  The mouth and teeth are also evaluated for fractures, infections, abnormal tooth wear, root, pulp, or dentin exposure, damage to enamel, tumors, cysts and ulcers.  An ultrasonic scaler is used to clean above (visible enamel with tartar) and more importantly, below the gumline.  X-rays may be taken to evaluate the health of the part of the tooth that is not visible which can be up to 2/3 of some teeth.  The teeth are then polished, and fluoride is applied. 

If further treatment of a tooth is necessary, such as an extraction or packing of a deep pocket with an antibiotic after cleaning to preserve the health of the tooth below the gumline, it can be accomplished while your pet is under anesthesia in most circumstances.

The American Veterinary Dental College does not recommend ‘anesthesia free’ dental cleanings.  These procedures can cause undo stress, result in injury to the tooth and gums, and be painful.  The surface of the tooth may be cleaned with a hand scaler but the more dangerous condition of periodontal disease below the gumline can not be addressed.  Although anesthesia will always have risks, it is safer now than ever before.  The risks are very low and far outweighed by the benefits of maintaining a healthy mouth.  Most pets are up and ready to go back home within a few hours.  Pets cannot brush their teeth like humans can.  This predisposes them to dental disease.  Mulnix Animal Clinic offers free dental consultations to evaluate the stage of periodontal disease your pet has (0-4) and can create a treatment plan tailored to your pet.  This may include a professional dental cleaning treatment plan and/or home dental care to preserve the health of your pet’s teeth. 

 

 

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