Periodontal disease is a condition that is typically found only in dogs. Periodontal disease generally begins as a buildup of plaque along the gum-line, which forms a strong adhesive to the teeth and underneath the gums, ultimately causing inflammation and the loss of supportive dental structures. The first stage of periodontal disease is plaque buildup, which progresses to become gingivitis, typically characterized by reddened gums. Your pet's oral health condition further progresses from gingivitis to periodontal disease when the adhesive plaque associated with gingivitis starts to form pockets between the teeth and the gums. At this point, the oral damage of periodontal disease is often irreversible and extremely painful for your pet.
The most common symptom that is associated with all stages of periodontal disease is persistent bad breath. Most dogs that are developing forms of periodontal disease will demonstrate sensitivity around the mouth, inflammation at the gums, bleeding of the gums, loss of appetite, difficulty chewing or eating, and depression or irritability. If you suspect that your pet may have some stage of periodontal disease, make an appointment with your veterinarian for an examination. Your veterinarian will perform an oral examination to determine the severity and stage of your dog's periodontal disease. If your dog's periodontal disease has progressed to the point where pockets have formed between the gums and the teeth, your veterinarian will likely measure the depth using a calibrated probe.
There are several factors that may make your pet more susceptible to developing periodontal disease, including age, breed, grooming habits, tooth alignment, home care and the environment of the mouth. While smaller dogs are often more likely to develop periodontal disease because their teeth are crowded closer together, allowing for more plaque buildup, older dogs are also more prone to developing periodontal disease, as their teeth are not always in perfect condition. Because plaque initially forms as food particles and bacteria collect along the gums, any dog that eats whatever they find, cleans the mud out of their fur or simply breathes through their mouth is more likely to develop periodontal disease. However, periodontal disease is different from many other health conditions in that it is preventable; by brushing your dog's teeth once a week and providing dental bones for chewing, you can easily dispel any plaque from your dog's mouth that might lead to periodontal disease.
Even if the damage that may have already occurred as a result of your dog's periodontal disease is irreversible, it's important to find an appropriate treatment method for your dog in order to maintain the health of your dog's teeth and gums and provide pain relief that will allow them to return to normal eating and chewing habits. Your veterinarian with recommend a treatment option based on the severity of your dog's oral condition. The most common first procedure in treatment is to scale off the adhesive plaque buildup, using an ultrasonic scaler, followed by a polishing to remove any microscopic scratching. For more severe cases of periodontal disease, your dog may require additional forms of oral treatment, ranging from oral surgery to the application of sealants. After these procedures, your veterinarian will probably prescribe a pain medication, antibiotic or topical medication to help manage your pet's pain and prevent infection. Instructions will also be given concerning diet, chew toys and care procedures.