Dental Disease and its effects
What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease refers to the inflammation and infection of the tissues and structures that surround and support the teeth. This inflammation and infection destroys the ligaments as well as the substance that holds teeth in their sockets – cementum. It also can cause resorption of the bone, which leads to further pain, tooth loosening and tooth loss. In advanced cases, affected teeth completely lose their attachment to the jaw bone.
This is one of the most common veterinary problems in dogs and cats, and it affects all breeds and both genders. Periodontal disease tends to worsen with age, mainly due to poor dental care and resulting bacterial build-up.
What Causes Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease is largely bacterial in origin. Bacteria attaches to the teeth forming a hard, rough substance called tartar (or calculus) which allows more plaque to accumulate.
Initially, plaque is soft and brushing or chewing hard food can dislodge it. If left to spread, plaque can lead to gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums, causing them to become red and swollen and to bleed easily. As plaque and calculus develop below the gum line, professional cleaning will be needed to help manage it. If the plaque and tartar build-up continues unchecked, infection can form around the root of the tooth.
In the final stages of periodontal disease, the tissues surrounding the tooth are destroyed, the bony socket holding the tooth in erodes, and the tooth becomes loose. This is a very painful process for your four-legged friend, but these problems can be averted before they start with proper dental care.
How is the rest of the body affected?
Bad breath is the most common effect noted, however, this is often only the tip of the iceberg. The gums become irritated, leading to bleeding and pain, and your pet may lose its appetite. The roots may become so severely affected that some teeth become loose and fall out.
However, infected gums and teeth aren’t just a problem in the mouth — the heart, kidneys, liver & intestinal tract can also be infected. The tartar and any infected areas of the mouth contain a multitude of bacteria which gains access to the blood stream . Studies have shown that dogs with severe dental disease have more microscopic damage in their kidneys, heart muscle and liver than do dogs with less severe periodontal disease. Additionally, for our elderly pets, they are more sensitive to their heart, kidneys and liver being affected by the bacteria that cause dental disease.
Most people would agree that dental pain can be very severe. But despite the severity of dental pain, dogs and cats go about life in an apparently normal manner. Rarely will an owner notice tooth pain in an animal. Pain signs and symptoms are vague at best and easily overlooked by even the most conscientious and attentive owner. We know that dogs and cats, like humans, have almost identical nervous systems which means they feel that same pain that we do. After a dental procedure, it’s not surprising to hear that a dog or cat is “much more active”…”acts years younger”…”eats much better”…”wants to play, etc.”
With the advances in modern veterinary medicine, animals are living longer, happier, healthier lives, and we would like to ensure that your pet’s mouth stays healthy as well as the rest of their body. With regular dental care, you can prevent some of these more serious side effects
Preventing Periodontal Disease
Fortunately, periodontal disease is almost entirely preventable by regular home dental care, which should start after your puppy or kittens permanent teeth have erupted. A number of products are available for oral hygiene, including brushes, pastes and chewing products that help to physically reduce plaque build-up.
Special dental diets are also commercially available. Pets prone to periodontal disease should be fed a palatable, high quality dry kibble as the mainstay of their diet.
Questions & Answers:
Q: Is anesthesia necessary to do a dental cleaning on my pet?
Home care (brushing) does not require anesthesia, and is definitely a part of good oral health for your pet.
Answer: A professional veterinary dental cleaning always involves general anesthesia. This is because a typical pet dental includes full oral exam, treatment and/or removal of diseased teeth, removal of plaque and tartar, and finally polishing the teeth. Animals, no matter how well-trained they may be, do not open up their mouth and put up with the noise and possible discomfort involved with a full dental cleaning.
Q: What if a tooth needs to be removed?
A: When disease has caused irreparable damage to the tooth and its surrounding bone structures, removing the tooth is the best option. A rotting tooth is like a giant festering splinter with all of the associated pain and infection. Extracting the tooth removes the source of the trouble and sets the stage for healing.
Where possible we always try to save teeth. It is in our pet’s best interests to have a full dentition. However if a tooth is too infected or loose or is going to be a source of future problems then it may need to be removed. Cats and dogs do very well after teeth have been extracted. In extreme cases this can mean all of the teeth. Remember it is much better to have no tooth and a healthy gum than a retained tooth and ongoing infection.
Depending on the tooth involved, extraction may be quick and simple or a very complicated and difficult procedure. Loose teeth are not necessarily easier to deal with because in order for that tooth to be loose in the first place, the disease process had to progress to a critical state which will require treatment of the bone and surrounding soft tissues, all of which must be addressed. Teeth with more than one root must be delicately sectioned into pieces to ensure removal without harming the bone or fracturing the tip of a root. Dental radiographs (X – rays) may also be needed to evaluate oral health. These X-rays help to detect abnormalities that cannot be seen through physical examination alone and can also confirm the need for tooth extraction when teeth are loose or badly infected. Sutures are used to close the gum from a large extracted tooth site. These will dissolve over time and do not need to be removed.
- Anesthesia monitoring–When your pet is under anesthesia, its vital signs (such as body temperature, heart rate, and respiration) are monitored and recorded. This helps ensure your pet’s safety while under anesthesia.
- Scaling and polishing–Using instruments much like human dentists, veterinarians remove plaque and calculus from your pet’s teeth. Polishing with a special paste smoothes out scratches to the tooth enamel.
From Our Visitors
The girls (and guys now) have looked after our four legged kids for over 20 years. They have a very caring and patient approach, particularly with insecure dogs. They always put 100% into doing their best in ensuring that our animals get the best of care. We moved into the city in 2014, we tried a number of vets but did not receive the same level of care so returned to Mona Vale. We can’t recommend them enough.
As a pet owner it is such a comforting feeling knowing there is such a capable and friendly vet practice close by. Thanks for looking after Gina!