Did you know? Practicing proper oral health as a part of your pet's routine health plan can, on average, add up to 2-4 years onto their life! That is 14-28 years in dogs years!!!!!
Dental disease, or periodontal disease, is one of, if not the most common disease we see in our furry friends. It is estimated that by the time your pet reaches the age of 3 years old they have some form of periodontal disease. For most owners it can be difficult to know if your pet is suffering from periodontal disease. The first sign owners usually notice is halitosis, or bad breath. It is often a common misconception that pets normally have bad breath. This is not the case. If you do notice your pets breath becoming unbearable, there is a good chance that they are suffering from periodontal disease. The foul smell comes from bacteria that becomes trapped under to gum line.
Periodontal disease is classified into 4 stages.
Stage 1 - Gingivitis
As the bacteria starts to multiply, the gums start to become inflamed and swollen (a.k.a. gingivitis) and we get the beginning of plaque build up. We are now at stage 1 periodontal disease. Treatment is key at this stage because you can actually reverse the disease at this point. Treatment involves brushing teeth at home, providing your dog with dental chews and of course, prophylactic cleanings with dental x-rays at your veterinarian's office. If no treatment is provided, the periodontal disease with advance to stage 2.
Stage 2 - Early Periodontitis
At stage 2 the bacteria continues to increase causing the entire gum to become inflamed. The mouth is becoming painful and the toxins released from the bacteria give off a foul odor. Plaque and tarter continue to build up and the ligament attaching the tooth to the underlying bone starts to loosen. If your pet is at a stage 2 there is a good chance they will need a few surgical extractions. Surgical extractions increase the price of a prophylactic cleaning immensely. This is because oral surgery is involve which is much more technically challenging.
Stage 3 - Moderate Periodontitis
By stage 3 owners are definitely able to smell an odor from their dogs mouth. The gums are now cherry red and extremely irritated to the point they may bleed. Subtle changes can be seen in behavior and eating habits as well. Most people perceive this as their pet "just aging" when in reality it is the periodontal disease that is painful, making it more difficult to eat. The bacteria start to form pockets under the gum line leading to tooth root abscesses. Some teeth are becoming mobile. At this point, several teeth have significant bone changes on dental x-rays which means they need to be surgically extracted. Periodontal disease at this point is often irreversible.
Stage 4 - Advanced Periodontitis
As if Stage 1,2 and 3 weren't bad enough, stage 4 gets even worse. There is a large amount of calculus over the teeth and you can start to see a white discharge coming from the gum line indicating a tooth abscess. The bacteria and toxins they release have started to eat away at the bone and the ligament attaching the tooth to the bone is virtually gone. Many of the the teeth have become wiggly and loose. This is most evident on the molars and premolars in the back of the mouth. Pain increases and you may even notice your dog acting tender when eating hard kibble. At stage 4 the periodontal disease does not just affect the mouth but the bacteria now has an easy route to the kidneys, liver and heart causing systemic disease. Unfortunately, a full mouth extraction is the treatment of choice at this point. It is the best way to clear the mouth of infection.
Here are some helpful tips to help prevent severe periodontal disease...
*It is never too late to start brushing! Make sure tooth paste is made especially for pets.
*Use dental chews to help prevent build up. But make sure you follow the BBD rule...all chews must be bendable, breakable and/or dentable. Hard bones such as raw hides, antlers and animal bones can actually be more damaging to the teeth instead of protecting them!
*If they don't already do so, ask your veterinarian to exam your pet's teeth at every visit and let you know what stage of dental disease they have.
Below is a link to Best Friends Animal Hospital and Greehaven Animal Clinic to watch a short video to give you an overview of what occurs during a dental procedure!
Link to Best Friends Animal Hospital
Link to Greehaven Animal Clinic
Keep Smiling and thanks for reading!