By Audrey Harvey, DVM
Recent estimates have suggested that at least 85% of dogs over four years of age have some degree of canine periodontal disease.
What exactly is periodontal disease? “Perio” means “around” and “dontal” refers to the tooth, so periodontal disease involves the tissues around the tooth.
There are four tissues involved in periodontal disease. The gingiva or gum, the cementum (a calcified substance that covers the root of a tooth), the periodontal ligament holding the tooth in the socket, and the alveolar bone that supports the tooth. As well as being extremely painful, untreated periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss.
What Causes Periodontal Disease
This condition starts with the formation of plaque, a clear fluid consisting of mucin, sloughed cells and bacteria. If this isn’t removed, the mineral salts in your dog’s diet will adhere to the plaque and form hard yellow calculus that develops particularly on those big molars at the back of his mouth. This calculus inflames the gums, leading to the spread of bacteria under the gum line. The results is erosion of the support structures and loss of the tooth.
Plaque is very quick to develop, and can start to appear within days of a professional teeth clean and polish.
Diagnosis of Canine Gum Disease
If you enjoy cuddling up to your dog, you’ll be very quick to notice if he has gum or periodontal disease. The first indication of a problem is bad breath. You may also notice a change in your dog’s eating habits because of pain. He may appear willing to take a mouthful of food, but will back off before eating too much.
To fully evaluate the condition of your dog’s teeth and periodontal tissues, a full examination under general anesthesia is done. This will allow your veterinarian to develop a treatment plan for him.
Treating Periodontal Disease in Your Canine Best Friend
There are several individual steps involved in treating your dog’s periodontal disease.
1. Any obviously loose teeth are carefully removed.
2. Any large pieces of tartar are scraped off.
3. Smaller pieces of tartar close to the gum line are removed with more delicate instruments.
4. A periodontal probe is used to measure the pockets around the teeth and get an idea of the severity of the disease in his mouth.
5. Tartar is then carefully scraped from the roots of the tooth that are below the gum line.
6. The enamel on the teeth is polished to make it smooth.
7. A fluoride treatment is applied to the teeth to protect them.
8. Comprehensive records are kept on what abnormalities have been found on each individual tooth and how it was managed.
Preventing Gum and Periodontal Disease
Ideally, you should start brushing your puppy’s teeth as soon as they emerge from the gum. Even though those baby teeth won’t last longer than a few months, your dog will become very familiar with having his teeth brushed.
The ideal teeth cleaning product for your dog is the Herbal Dental Kit with Toothbrush. The Dental Gel is loaded with herbal ingredients to clean his teeth, kill bacteria and freshen his breath. Bloodroot and Peppermint Oil reduce inflammation and freshen his breath, while Echinacea, Myrrh and Goldenseal kill the bacteria that may lead to gum disease.
This neat little kit contains two types of toothbrush. One is the regular brush with a handle, which is easy to maneuver around your dog’s mouth. The other is a fingertip brush that can make it easier to clean the teeth on a less co-operative dog.
Gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums, can be treated. Periodontal disease isn’t reversible but it can be controlled. Professional cleaning plus follow up home care with Dental Gel and a tooth brush will keep your dog’s mouth pain free and in good health.