What is periodontal disease?
'Periodontal' comes from two Greek words that mean 'around the tooth.' Periodontal disease is a series of changes that are associated with the inflammation and loss of the deep supporting structures of teeth.
How does periodontal disease develop?
If gingivitis is left untreated, it will progress to periodontal disease which is irreversible.
Food particles and bacteria collect along the gumline forming plaque. If plaque is not removed, minerals in the saliva combine with the plaque and form tartar (or calculus) which adheres strongly to the teeth. Plaque starts to mineralize 3-5 days after it forms. The tartar is irritating to the gums and causes an inflammation called gingivitis. This can be seen as reddening of the gums adjacent to the teeth. It also causes bad breath.
If the calculus is not removed, it builds up under the gums. It separates the gums from the teeth to form "pockets" and encourages even more bacterial growth. At this point the damage is irreversible, and called "periodontal" disease. It can be very painful and can lead to loose teeth, abscesses, and bone loss or infection.
What factors affect the development of periodontal disease?
Numerous factors play a role in the formation of plaque, tartar, and the development of periodontal disease. These include:
Age and general health status
Diet and chewing behavior
Breed, genetics, and tooth alignment
Periodontal disease more commonly affects older animals.
Diet and Chewing Behavior
Studies show that hard kibbles are slightly better at keeping plaque from accumulating on the teeth. Dogs that chew on various toys may remove some of the plaque build-up.
Breed, Genetics, and Tooth Alignment
Small breed and brachycephalic dogs are at greater risk of periodontal disease because their teeth are often crowded together. This results in an increased accumulation of plaque because the normal cleansing mechanisms are hindered.
Hair accumulation and impaction around the tooth and in the gingival sulcus can increase the development of tartar.
Regular brushing of your dog's teeth can greatly reduce the accumulation of plaque and the development of tartar, thus reducing the risk of periodontal disease.
What are the signs of periodontal disease?
As periodontal disease progresses, you may observe the following signs:
Purulent exudate (pus) around the tooth
Persistent bad breath
Gums that bleed easily
Sensitivity around the mouth
Pawing at the mouth
Gums that are inflamed (red), hyperplastic, or receding
Loose or missing teeth
Loss of appetite
Stomach or intestinal upsets
Difficulty chewing or eating
Irritability or depression
How is periodontal disease diagnosed?
It is important to treat and control periodontal disease for 2 reasons:
• to maintain the health of teeth and gums
• to guard against infection spreading to other parts of the body