Dental health is one of the most important factors determing your pet’s over all health. Failure to maintain oral health will lead to a decrease in both your pets quality and quantity of life. As technology has increased, oral health has come to the forefront of veterinary care. Management of oral disease is much more than tartar removal and extraction of loose teeth.
Dental care should start while your pet is young and before plaque and calculus causes oral disease. Pets should have a complete exam performed by a veterinarian at the age of 6-8 weeks of age. Early and repeat exams allows the veterinarian to determine if you pet is free from congential abnormalities that may pose serious consiquences. In addition, oral exams during this period will allow for early detection of occlusion problems of the teeth that maybe corrected (overbite, underbite, and extra teeth) if detected early.
If you pet’s teeth are normal, preventative care such as tooth brushing, dental chews and treats will reduce the frequency that your pet will need professional dental care. All pets will eventually need to have their teeth professionally cleaned. The frequency of professional oral care is dependent on many factors. Many pets, especially small breed dogs, often need professional cleaning every 6-12 months. However, large breed dogs may only need cleaning every 2-3 years.
Studies indicate that the most important part of the tooth is the root. Disease of the root often goes undetected by traditional examination methods. Failure to diagnose and treat periodontal disease properly can lead to tooth loss and serious systemic disease. Using direct digital X-ray technologies, we are now able to image all of the tooth and it’s supporting bone structure. This allows us to detect early and hidden oral disease.
Many owners may notice or complain about their pet’s breath. This smell is more than a bad odor. The smell is a sign of a serious problems with far reaching health concerns. The smell means that there is infection in the mouth. This infection usually consists of numerous types of bacteria that live under the hard plaque and under the gum line. In many cases the infection extends deep under the gum line and in the bone that hold the teeth in place. Advanced infections of the bone can be spread to other organs (liver, kidneys, heart, spleen) just by your pet chewing his/her food.
Staging Oral Disease
Once your pet is diagnosed with oral disease, it is important to stage the disease so that a treatment plan can be established. However, staging or grading the disease acurrately is difficult by just examining your pets mouth. Often, the exact stage of the disease is not known until your pet has been anesthetized and dental radiographs (X-rays) have been taken.
There are 4 Grades of dental disease recognized by the American College of Veterinary Dental Practitioners:
Grade 1 periodontal disease:
Redness of the gingiva (gums) around the tooth (termed gingivitis). 100% reversable if corrected at this point.
Grade 2 periodontal disease:
This stage indicates development of early periodontal disease. Periodontal disease or periodontitis is inflammation and loss of the bone structure that supports the tooth. Damage to the bone stucture is ususally irreversible and leads to tooth instability and loss.
Grade 3 periodontal disease:
Indicates moderate periodontal disease indicated significant attachment of the tooth to the underlying bone structure. The gums also bleed easily.
Grade 4 periodontal disease:
Is the worst stage of periodontal disease. Occurs when there is a breakdown of the supporting tissues (>50% support loss) with severe pocket depth or recession of the gingiva.