Periodontitis refers to the inflammation of the tissues that surround the teeth. These tissues collectively referred to as the periodontium, include thegingiva and thealveolar bone that surrounds the roots of the teeth. When chronic inflammation leads to the inflammation or breakdown of these important tissues, periodontal disease occurs.
Dogs with periodontal disease start out with gingivitis due to bacteria in the mouth. This bacteria forms aplaque or biofilm that sticks to the teeth and is difficult to remove with antibiotics alone. Physical movements (like with brushing) are necessary to remove plaque.
After a short period of time, untreated plaque can harden and becomestartar orcalculus due to the way that it binds with calcium in your dog’s saliva. This calculus can accumulate and cause severe gingivitis. Bacteria becomes trapped in the pocket that forms between the tooth and the gums called thegingivalsulcus, and this infection will eventually cause tooth root exposure and bone loss.
Teeth can become so mobile that they may fall out of their sockets! And because of how easily inflamed gums can bleed, oral bacteria can get into a dog’s bloodstream, making its way to the heart and causingendocarditis.
Poor hygiene is one of the most significant contributors to periodontal disease. It only takes a few days for plaque to become tartar, and this length of time will vary among different breeds of dog. It is also common for smaller dog breeds to have a greater risk of periodontal disease because they often have crowded teeth in their tiny mouths. Crowded teeth can trap more plaque and tartar between them.
Periodontal disease is the most common disease in veterinary medicine that affects all dogs over the age of three. Dogs may have very early-stage periodontal disease, which only involves gingivitis or severe periodontal disease where there is greater than 50% of bone loss around the teeth. Early-stage periodontal disease (stage one) is the only truly reversible stage.
As a pet owner, you may suspect that your dog has the dental disease if it hurts for him to chew his food. He may appear to chew food on one side of his mouth, or he might drool a lot when he eats. He may also seem to drop food while he chews.
In more extreme cases, like with tooth root abscesses, you may start to see a large soft swelling in the skin around his muzzle, chin, or below his eye. Dogs with early dental disease may have minor changes like bad breath. Dogs with more advanced disease may have bleeding gums and even mobile teeth.