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Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is a disease of the tooth supporting structures (Bone, gingiva, and periodontal ligament). It is the number one diagnosed problem in animal patients today. Eighty percent of dogs and seventy percent of cats have some degree of periodontal disease by the age of 2. This occurs when bacteria form on the teeth in a substance called plaque, which makes it’s way under the gumline where the bacteria will secrete toxins. These toxins as well as the inflammatory response from the animal damages the periodontal tissues and can decrease the attachment. As this progresses, the pocket will get deeper. This will weaken the bone in the area, and if it is in the lower jaw it can weaken it to the point of causing a pathologic fracture. The end stage of this disease is tooth loss, however the disease has caused problems well before this.

The inflammation in the gingiva that allows the body’s defenses to attack the invaders also allows those invaders to gain access to the body. The bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream and be carried to the patient’s vital organs, such as the kidney, liver, heart, lungs and brain. They will cause damage to these tissues on a daily basis. In addition, the body must deal with these bacteria on a daily basis, leading to a state of chronic disease.

Treatment of periodontal disease is a two to three pronged attack. The first step is a thorough dental prophylaxis (cleaning). This intital step removes the plaque and calculus. This must be done above and below the gumline. Next the teeth are polished to smooth the tooth and decrease plaque attachment. Finally, the mouth is completely evaluated and all significant findings are noted on a dental chart.

Most important is home care. This will greatly increase the periodontal health of the patient, as well as decrease the frequency of professional cleanings. The most effective method of homecare is tooth brushing. However, if this is not possible, there are new diets and chews that can help with your pet’s oral health. If you have a young pet (less than 1 year) you can usually start with homecare, however consult your veterinarian first. If there is significant periodontal disease, then periodontal surgeries may be attempted to save the teeth. These surgeries are technical, but can have good success in the right patient.

For more information on periodontal disease, homecare, and veterinary dentistry in general, please go to www.dogbeachdentistry.com. Presented by Brook Niemiec, DVM - Fellow, Academy of Veterinary Dentistry,
Veterinary Centers of America.


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