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What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease is an oral disease that attacks the teeth and the supporting structures around the teeth. It is one of the most common diseases diagnosed in both cats and dogs. However, it is also the most preventable and treatable disease. The following information will cover oral disease for both dogs and cats.
Why Should I Brush my Pets Teeth?
About 80% of dogs and 70% of cats will have some stage of dental disease by the age of 2 years. Just as in humans, animals that don't have their teeth brushed on a daily basis will get food and other materials that get stuck in the teeth. Soon those foreign objects will start to harbor bacteria that will multiple to create tartar and plaque, which is very irritating to the gum tissues and can cause pain in the mouth.
If tartar and plaque are not removed, the bacteria will continue to eat away at your pets teeth. The bacteria, once below the gum line, will release toxins that cause periodontal inflammation and destruction. Your dogs' or cats' immune system will then react to the bacteria by releasing tissue destructive enzymes within the gingival (gums). The combination of your pet's immune system and the bacterial toxin's is what causes periodontal disease. This disease can progress to gum and bone loss that recedes down to the roots, causing roots and furcation (space between two roots of the same tooth) to be exposed. In addition, the bacteria may entered your pets bloodstream when it gets below the gum line and can travel to organs like the heart, lungs, kidneys, and liver. When bacteria does infect the organs, it can cause irreversible organ damage which can be fatal to your pet.
Your pet looks to you for dental care because they cannot brush their own teeth. The key to dental disease is prevention by maintaining daily oral hygiene. We understand that it is difficult to remember. Therefore, Dr. Fluhr recommends that brushing your pets teeth right after you brush your teeth will help maintain a daily routine.
What are the Common Signs of Oral Disease?
The most noticeable sign that owners observe is halitosis (bad breath). However, please be ware that even when you pets mouth is clean, it may still not smell like puppy breath or fresh. Animals have different enzymes in their saliva which produces a different odor than what a humans breath may smell like. Though, when their mouth is disease, it will produce a persistent foul smell that is not easy to ignore.
Other signs include:
ï¿½ Sensitivity around the mouth
ï¿½ Pawing and/or rubbing at the mouth
ï¿½ Loss of appetite
ï¿½ Difficultly eating or dropping pieces of food
ï¿½ Bleeding and/or inflamed gums
ï¿½ Receded gums
ï¿½ Loose or missing teeth
ï¿½ Excessive drooling
ï¿½ Swelling under the eyes (hint: Tooth Abscess)
What Happens During a Dental Cleaning?
At Tender Touch Veterinary Care, all pets must be place under anesthesia during a cleaning procedure. The goal to dental cleaning is to remove as much of the tartar as possible. The dental procedure begins by noting/ charting any abnormalities which include any teeth that are missing, diseased, and/or broken. Afterwards the teeth are cleaned with an ultrasonic scalar and then if needed, a handheld scalar. Once the tartar is removed, the teeth are polished smooth out the surface of the teeth so bacteria don't harbor in the cracks. Then each tooth will be probed to find any pockets (which is when the gums have receded away from the tooth). The mouth is then checked again for any newly found abnormalities. At this time, if any teeth that need to be surgically extracted will be done.
What are Dental Radiographs?
In veterinary medicine, dental radiographs are use to get a complete understanding on the health of the mouth and the extent of possible dental disease. One of the things we use dental radiographs for is to reassure a tooth is missing. When a tooth is missing in the mouth, it is not a 100% guarantee. It just means that the crown (top portion of the tooth is not present). By taking a dental radiograph, it will give us a guarantee whether the tooth (roots included) are present or not. Sometimes due to disease, the crown of the tooth will break off leaving the roots below the gum line to become infected and leave an opening for bacteria to enter the bloodstream. Our goal then is to perform a dental extraction, which is the complete removal of a tooth. In addition, a tooth externally may look healthy but the roots and surrounding supportive structures or periodontium may not be healthy.