Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, which is a bit misleading as it will go on to involve other structures such as the boney socket and the ligament attaching the tooth to the bone if left untreated. Advanced periodontal disease can cause bone destruction leading to a fistulae (hole) between the nose and mouth, spontaneous jaw fractures and (obviously) severe pain. Periodontal disease can also lead to heart, liver, kidney and respiratory disease and complicate treatment of conditions such as diabetes. Having healthy teeth really is important for the health and wellbeing of our pets.

Gingivitis is a reddening of the gum (often seen as a red line on the edge of the gum) caused by plaque building up on the teeth. Plaque is a build-up of bacteria, saliva and food debris. Gingivitis quickly gets better after removal of plaque. If left untreated the other structures supporting the tooth will become irreversibly affected, and becomes periodontal disease.

Tartar is hard, brown mineralized plaque and builds up on the tooth and can only be removed by professionals.

Doggy breath is usually associated with periodontal disease and should never be considered normal.

The British Veterinary Dental Association stress the importance of early diagnosis and treatment to help prevent progression and stabilise periodontal disease. Therefore, as part of your pet’s annual vaccination booster, vets in the UK give a health check which includes the mouth.

If your pet is part of our Pet Care Plan, we will see your pet twice a year for a thorough health check which includes the health of the mouth and teeth. These health checks provide a vital function in early diagnosis and keeping your pet healthy.

Treatment of periodontal disease

The extent of disease cannot be fully assessed unless your pet is under general anaesthesia. A dental probe is used to check ligament attachment and the surrounding bone is assessed by dental x-ray. This is important for ongoing assessment and treatment planning. The first stage of treatment will be to remove the tartar and plaque from above and below the gum line.

Prevention

Preventing tartar and plaque build-up is key. The advice is the same for our pets as it is for us. Brushing your pets’ teeth with a soft pet toothbrush is the least risky and effective method. Dental chews are less effective than we would like and are usually high in calories, many dog owners feed marrow bones but the British Veterinary Dental Association advises care regarding feeding of bones for many reasons. From a dental viewpoint feeding bones can cause wear and slab fractures of the enamel.