Periodontitis in Dogs

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% 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:

What to Watch For

Signs of Periodontitis in Dogs may include:

Diagnosis of Periodontitis in Dogs

Diagnostic tests are needed to recognize canine periodontitis and exclude other diseases. Tests may include:

Treatment of Periodontitis in Dogs

Teeth can generally be salvaged until they have lost 75% of their bone support from one or more roots. Your veterinarian may recommend the following:

Home Care

The basic principle is that active periodontal disease will not develop around a clean tooth. Daily tooth brushing is the single most important home care act that you can do. Dental care diets or treats can also be helpful to maintain a healthy mouth. Chlorhexidine rinses or toothpastes are excellent at killing plaque above the gumline and should be used daily in chronic or refractory cases.

Periodontal lesions can be progressive, so it is important they are monitored closely. Follow-up with your veterinarian as directed (often every 3 to 6 months) for re-evaluation.

Preventive Care

Again, daily tooth brushing using a pet dental product is the most important thing you can do to prevent periodontal disease. Options include chlorhexidine gels, toothpastes, rinses, and regular toothpastes.

In addition, dental examinations every three to six months by your veterinarian are important. They may recommend frequent ultrasonic scalings and root planings.

Follow-up Care for Dogs with Periodontitis

The best treatment for your dog is a combination of home care and professional veterinary care. Home care is critical to the prognosis/outcome of canine periodontitis.