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Periodontitis in Dogs

By: Dr. David Nielsen

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Periodontitis is the inflammation of the structures that support teeth, the gum tissue, periodontal ligament, alveolus (small cavity) and cementum (bonelike connective tissue covering the root of a tooth and assisting in tooth support). It is one of the most common infectious diseases in the world in dogs and is caused by bacteria that make up plaque.

It is the leading cause of tooth loss and, in human dentistry, periodontitis is called the silent killer due to its destructive nature. The total impact is difficult to measure scientifically, but periodontitis is the number one source of the bacteria that causes aspiration pneumonia in humans. Small amounts of the same bacteria in periodontal disease are released into the bloodstream (bacteremia) when we chew or brush our teeth everyday. The significance of these events is not yet determined. Periodontitis causes tooth and bone loss, which can even lead to jaw fracture.

Periodontitis can be seen at almost any age and affects over 80 percent of dogs over three years of age.

Other dental problems can have symptoms similar to that of periodontitis in your pet. Therefore, excluding other diseases is important before establishing a diagnosis of periodontitis. Other diseases may include:

  • Gingivitis (inflammation of the gingiva) can be a precursor to periodontitis and looks similar, but does not have deep pockets (as measured by a periodontal probe).

  • Endodontic lesions which can be mixed with or can be precipitated from periodontal lesions

  • Periapical (surrounding tooth) abscesses, fractured teeth and any other cause of tooth pain

  • Fractured mandible secondary to periodontal disease

    What to Watch For

  • Bad breath
  • Bleeding gums
  • Tooth loss
  • Ulcers in the mouth
  • Loose teeth
  • Tooth extrusion
  • Gum recession
  • Poor appetite

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