What is Dental Disease?
According to statistics, 80% of dogs over the age of three show signs of dental disease. Gum disease is one of the most common conditions found in dogs today.
The cause of gum disease in dogs is the same as it is in people. Gum disease begins when plaque and tartar are allowed to build up on your pet’s teeth. The bacteria in dental plaque irritate the gum tissue which often leads to infection in the bone surrounding the teeth.
Besides the negative impact on oral health, bacteria can enter the bloodstream through the large blood vessels located near the gums and teeth. At this stage, the organs with the highest blood flow are most susceptible to infections; eyes, lungs, heart, kidneys, liver and even the brain. Damage to these organs caused by infection can shorten the life of your dog.
Stages of Dental Disease
Most pet owners do not know what their dog’s teeth and gums should look like or how to properly care for them. This guide will show you the different stages of dental disease beginning with a normal, healthy mouth and ending with some examples of extreme dental disease.
Periodontal disease refers to the condition of the gum tissue. Plaque and tartar are the buildup on the surfaces of the teeth, both above and below the gum line.
Tartar levels do not determine the stage of periodontal disease. While gum disease is usually accompanied by heavy tartar, heavy tartar can be present with little to no gum disease and gum disease can be present without the presence of heavy tartar.
This is an example of healthy teeth with the gum line fitting tightly along the tooth.
Stage 1 – Gingivitis
Gums may be inflamed and sensitive. Plaque may be visible. Tartar levels vary from none to moderate. Odor may be noticeable.
Stage 2 – Early Periodontitis
Gums are inflamed, swollen and probably sensitive. Moderate buildup of plaque. Tartar levels can vary. Odor is noticeable.
Stage 3 – Moderate Periodontitis
At this stage, periodontal damage has occurred. Gingivitis has progressed into periodontitis. Gums are inflamed, swollen and bleed easily. Periodontal pockets are beginning to form due to bacterial growth below the gums. Some bone loss may be occurring. Heavy tartar is usually present. Odor is noticeable.
By now your dog’s mouth is uncomfortable. The gums will be red, swollen and sore. Heavy tartar may appear on all or some teeth – especially the molars. The teeth may ache. Plaque has caused damage below the gum line. There may be drooling, pawing at the mouth, irritability, a change in appetite or eating behavior.
At this level, deep cleaning is necessary. X-rays are recommended. More than one treatment may be necessary to stabilize condition. Follow up cleanings and home care are essential.
Stage 4 – Advanced Periodontitis
By this stage periodontal disease is established and chronic. There is severe inflammation, gum recession and bleeding, deep pockets, bone loss and possibly loose teeth. Treatment will likely include extractions.
By now your dog’s mouth needs immediate professional care to relieve the pain and disease. Any symptoms displayed before will likely have become worse, including influence on the internal organs. Extractions are likely. Post surgical supportive care, frequent follow-up cleanings and diligent home care are necessary to maintain oral stability.