What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is an inflammatory disease that affects the soft (e.g. gums) and hard (e.g. bone) structures that support the teeth. Plaque is the main cause.
Plaque is a complex biofilm consisting of many species of bacteria. The mouth is full of bacteria, and if teeth aren’t cleaned daily the bacteria in plaque will form a sticky coating on teeth. The sticky coating is initially soft but as minerals and saliva mix with the plaque, it becomes harder forming tartar. Tartar tends to be more visual than plaque. Tartar is the thick hard yellow stuff on the outside of tooth surfaces above the gum-line that is tough to remove.
The real issue however occurs under the gum-line where you can’t really see what’s going. The bacteria produce toxins that damage and destroy the supporting tissues around the tooth. As a consequence your pet’s immune system responds by sending “defender” cells to the area to destroy the bacteria. These “defender” cells release chemical signals to attract more “defender” cells to the area. These chemicals also cause damage to the supporting tissues of the tooth. So instead of helping the problem, you pet’s immune system actually makes things worse. All of these factors are the cause of periodontal disease.
Why do you need to prevent periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease causes loss of soft tissues and bone around the teeth which can lead to tooth loss. It also causes gingivitis (inflammation and reddening of the gums). As you can imagine, periodontal disease can be very painful for your pet.
There are different severities of periodontal disease. The only way to accurately determine how severe it is, is to have the vet anaesthetise the pet and properly examine the teeth, gums and to take dental x-rays. Some severe cases of periodontal disease can lead to abscesses forming in the mouth, infection of the bone leading to jaw fractures, in some cases a hole called a “fistula” can develop between the mouth and nose cavity causing the discharge to come out of the nose instead of the mouth. But what sometimes gets overlooked is the fact that the bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream of your pet and lead to changes in their heart, liver and kidneys which may affect their overall health and reduce their life span.
It is important to note that periodontal disease can be treated and managed, but once it is established, it cannot be cured except by extraction of teeth.
How do you prevent periodontal disease?
The good news is that you can prevent periodontal disease from occurring in your pet. Regular dental checks at your local vet are a must if you want to stay on top of it. A good guide is every 6 months for dogs and cats over 2 years of age. Most vet clinics will do a free dental check (that is without a full examination) if you ask them.
A yearly professional dental clean is just as important in pets as it is in humans. A professional dental clean allows all existing plaque to be removed that might get missed with home dental treatments. Just like brushing your teeth daily, your pet needs daily dental treatment at home. There are a few different options on the market for you to choose from. Using a combination of options tend to work best. Here are a few examples:
- Pet toothpaste and toothbrush to brush teeth daily
- Prescription dental diets e.g. Hill’s t/d
- Dental treats e.g. Delicate Care Dental Treats, Greenies
- Water-Additives e.g. healthymouth
- Dental chew toys e.g. Kong, Hyperpet Dura Squeaks
- Raw bones (although can sometimes cause tooth fractures), hides
Whatever you decide to use, make sure it is something that you can fit into a daily routine and stick with. Remember your pet is reliant on you for their dental health.
Updated on 2018-04-12T01:42:32+00:00, by .