Periodontal Disease in Dogs

Periodontal disease is one of the most common diseases amongst dogs, though some studies claim that this is the number one disease in dogs over 3 years of age

Periodontal disease may be prevented but once it initiates ,if left untreated it may affect other body organs such as the heart and kidneys.

Although it is common to relate to the terms "Gingivitis" and "Periodontitis" as one, these are actually to different entities.

Periodontal disease or Periodontitis is an inflammatory process which affects the periodontal apparatus.
An apparatus which consists of the gingiva ,the alveolar bone (where the tooth is located), the cementum(the layer which covers the root of the tooth) and the Periodontal ligament which holds the tooth in the socket.

Gingivitis, is and inflammatory process of the gingiva alone and is a reversible process ,contrary to periodontitis, which affects the periodontal apparatus and is, usually ,not reversible.

The tooth's main support comes from the periodontal ligament ,which once affected in the inflammatory process may give way to the loss of the tooth.

Many studies show that periodontitis initiates due to the presence of plaque on the teeth.
A few minutes after tooth brushing a film of pellicle is deposited on the tooth surface.
This pellicle is composed of salivary proteins and serves as a sub strata for the oral cavity's bacteria to multiply at. The new layer which is formed is called the plaque, which after a while goes through a phase of mineralization and than turns into tartar.
The tartar formed on the tooth area and later on in the sub gingival sites stimulates a local response of the gingiva leading to gingivitis.
If this process is allowed to continue the bodies response worsens and the gingivitis may turn into periodontitis with loss of alveolar bone and the supporting structures of the teeth.

With the correct treatment and maintenance this process may be stopped or even prevented.

Prevention may be obtained by regular tooth brushing starting at a very early age.
Tooth brushing is tartar's best "enemy". Daily tooth brushing using a soft brush should be performed working with a circular motion at a 45 degree angle so that the brushe's fibers will penetrate the contact area between the gingival margin and the tooth crown.
There is no need to brush the inner side of the teeth ,the outer side that closer to the cheek will suffice.
After tooth brushing a nice treat will be helpful!
Although it is best to begin brushing at an early age even older pets can be taught to get used to brushing it is all a matter of gradually introducing the new technique and maintaining it on a regular basis.
Occasionally a good starting point will be to begin with the finger and cloth which can be socked in some soup or tasty juice instead of a brush so that it will be easier to customize to the procedure.

Along with tooth brushing it is important to seek professional counseling and teeth prophylaxis treatments which can be done at the vet's clinic.
These treatments consist of scaling of the teeth with special hand and ultra sonic instruments which assist in breaking down the tartar on the tooth and under the gingiva. After the scaling the teeth are polished with a special paste in scope of leaving the teeth smooth so that the pellicle and bacteria will accumulate slower.
During these sessions the teeth are also inspected for other lesions such as fractures, cavities ,pocket formation, gingival recession and also radio graphed for lesions such as bone loss which is not possible to see during visual inspection of the oral cavity.

In conclusion, maintaining oral cavity hygiene at home along with professional teeth prophys and dental formulated diets will provide our pets with a healthier and happier quality of life!

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