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Periodontitis is the inflammation and infection of the gums and tissue surrounding the teeth. It is the most common form of dental disease in both cats and dogs. Plaque and organic waste are deposited around the gum line which then hardens to form tartar. This tartar seeds bacteria under the gum line causing gingivitis, the precursor to periodontitis. If left untreated gingivitis rapidly progresses to periodontal disease, gum recession, tooth loosening, and infection.
Periodontal disease is a very common problem in household pets -- affecting 80% of dogs and 70% of cats over 3 years of age. Modern diets and poor conformation of the mouth in selective breeding are largely responsible for the high incidence of periodontitis.
As a result, prophylactic dental management in cats and dogs is a routine management tool for your animal’s health. If left untreated secondary oral infections associated with periodontal disease can lead to tonsillitis, pharyngitis, and abscesses in the oral cavity. Bacteria from the mouth is also absorbed into the blood stream, leading to blood born infections of the heart, kidneys, and liver.
Peritonitis is a direct consequence of gingivitis, which results from poor dental hygiene.
Periodontitis and gingivitis are commonly seen in companion animals and the presentation maybe very subtle reddening of the gums to acutely obvious foul breath and loss of teeth. You may see any of the following with periodontitis:
Reddening or bleeding of the gums
Swelling or inflammation of the gums or masses associated with the root of the tooth
Excessive tartar or plaque
Pain on eating (not always apparent)
Exposure of the root of the tooth
Diagnosis is made on the visual assessment of the teeth. At this time dental disease is often graded on a scale of one to four, from mild gingivitis to marked periodontitis. Most vets will include this as part of their normal routine health checks at vaccination time and some will even offer free dental health checks throughout the year.
The ideal treatment is the prevention of plaque and tartar build up around the gum line. This can be achieved through the use of appropriate chew toys, tooth brushing, specially formulated dental diets, and prophylactic dental scaling and polishing.
Unfortunately once tartar build up has occurred, both visually around the gum line and under the gum line, dental scale and polishing under anesthetic is required for effective removal. In addition to this it is often necessary to remove severely diseased teeth at this stage.
Once the teeth have been cleaned those methods previously described for the prophylactic management of tartar build up should be employed.