What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease is no different in pets than in humans. Periodontal disease is the destruction of bone, gum tissue, and structures that hold teeth in place. Periodontal disease is caused by a bacterial infection that spreads, unseen, beneath the gum line. As the disease progresses, it destroys the bone around the tooth-roots leading to mobile, painful teeth. Dogs and cats with advanced periodontal disease often require oral surgery to extract many teeth.
Dr. Christina Hansen
I am a 2007 graduate of the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine and passionate about helping our furry, four-legged companions, and the people who love them. With extensive advanced training in veterinary dentistry, my general practice focus is on improving the quality of life of pets with painful and diseased oral conditions.
I am a supporter of the Foundation for Veterinary almost all of my continuing education and training revolves around oral health and the treatment and prevention of dental disease. In the last few years, I have developed a strong love and appreciation for working with dogs, their capabilities, and their contribution to keeping our military, police, and communities safe.
How can I prevent periodontal disease?
There are two key components to preventing periodontal disease in your pet: home dental care and annual veterinary dental care. Daily brushing remains the gold standard to prevent plaque and calculus and slow the progression of periodontal disease. In addition, there are diets, treats, chews, and water additives that have the Veterinary Oral Health Council seal of acceptance that can be used to assist in preventative oral healthcare.
An annual veterinary dental cleaning is important to your pet’s oral health care program. Dental procedures under general anesthesia allow your veterinarian to visually examine each tooth and use a dental probe around each tooth, in addition to obtaining radiographs to evaluate the tooth structure that cannot be seen with the naked eye. When you do this regularly, your pet’s mouth is evaluated, thoroughly cleaned and any bacteria or beginnings of periodontal disease can be addressed immediately before it causes extensive damage. Your pet will thank you with a clean and healthy mouth.
How do I know if my pet has periodontal disease?
The truth is that you can’t. Unfortunately, by the time there are obvious indications of periodontal diseases, such as bad breath and loose teeth, there is already significant damage. Periodontal disease begins and exis under the gumline where it is not visible. White teeth do not mean that your pet is free from the disease. The only way to prevent or identify periodontal disease early is through regular veterinary dental cleanings under anesthesia, where the pet’s mouth is thoroughly evaluated, cleaned, and all teeth are radiographed to identify bone loss, periodontal pockets, and other disease involving the tooth root and surrounding bone.
Won't an anesthesia-free dental help prevent periodontal disease?
No. An anesthesia-free dental cleaning provides no benefit to your pet’s oral health. Scaling (scraping with an instrument) teeth only makes a tooth whiter in appearance. This procedure does nothing to eliminate bacteria beneath the gumline where damage is done and, in fact, the scaling without proper polishing leaves the tooth surface primed for bacterial plaque to attach to the tooth surface. Anesthesia-free dental cleanings are most dangerous because they give you a false sense of security that your pet has a clean mouth, leaving periodontal disease undetected and untreated.