The number one health problem diagnosed in cats and dogs over 4 years of age is periodontal disease. Dental disease puts stress on your pet’s immune system and can lead to serious liver, kidney, and heart disease. Additionally as dental disease progresses your pet’s mouth becomes increasingly painful. Most dogs and cats will continue to eat despite their pain, although some pets may begin swallowing food whole or stop eating all together. The longer dental disease goes untreated the more damage will occur, and the more costly treatment becomes. The simple fact is that proper dental care can add years to life of your pet!
What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal (dental) disease, inflammation of the structures that support the teeth, is the primary cause of tooth loss in both dogs and cats. Inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) often develops by the time a pet is one or two years old and progresses to irreversible changes by the time the pet is four to six years old.
When plaque and tartar accumulate on your pet’s teeth, the gums become irritated, painful and swollen. Bacteria invade the underlying tooth structures causing more inflammation and discomfort. All of these changes result in destruction of tooth attachments and underlying bone. The gums begin to recede leaving sensitive tooth roots exposed.
In addition, the exploding bacterial population puts constant stress on your pet’s immune system and can lead to serious liver, kidney and heart problems.
How is periodontal disease diagnosed?
During every visit, the doctor will assess your pet’s teeth. Dental disease is graded on a scale of 1 to 4, with Grade 1 indicating mild dental disease, and Grade 4 indicating severe dental disease.
Grade 1 periodontal disease:
Mild amount of plaque and gingivitis. Prognosis=reversible with treatment
Grade 2 periodontal disease:
Subgingival plaque. Gum swelling & redness. Prognosis=reversible with treatment
Grade 3 periodontal disease:
Subgingival plaque and tartar. Visible calculus formation. Gums red & swollen, will bleed with gentle pressure or probing Prognosis=irreversible, needs extraction
Grade 4 periodontal disease:
Severe subgingival plaque and tartar. Heavy calculus. Gums red, swollen, bleed easily, may see pus, loose or missing teeth and gum recession with exposed roots. Prognosis=irreversible, needs extraction
What are the signs of periodontal disease?
As periodontal disease progresses, you may observe one or more of 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
* Stomach or intestinal upsets
* Difficulty chewing or eating
* Irritability or depression
How is periodontal disease treated? Treatment for periodontal disease depends on the severity of the condition. Professional dental scaling and polishing will remove plaque and tartar from the teeth and from the area beneath the gum-line. During the procedure, the veterinarian will measure the degree of attachment of each individual tooth and determine whether the tooth can be salvaged or if extraction is necessary.
Extraction of severely diseased teeth is beneficial in many ways. It alleviates a constant source of pain for your pet and helps to prevent damage to surrounding teeth. If diseased teeth are allowed to remain in place, they act as a chronic source of inflammation, infection, odor and discomfort for your pet.
Many pet owners express concern over whether their pet will be able to eat normally after dental extractions are performed. Because diseased teeth are so painful, many pets do not use these teeth to eat or chew in the first place. Instead they chew around the painful tooth or swallow food whole. In fact, most pets continue to eat dry food without any problem after having dental work performed.
What about anesthesia?
In order to thoroughly evaluate your pet’s mouth and completely clean the teeth both above and below the gum-line, it is necessary to place your pet under a general anesthetic.
Before any anesthetic procedure the doctor will perform an extensive physical exam and routine blood work to evaluate liver and kidney function. The drugs used for anesthesia are tailored specifically to each individual, taking into consideration age and physical condition. All pets are closely monitored including heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, and oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.
Our number one concern is providing the safest anesthetic experience possible for every one of our patients.