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Periodontal Disease

OVERVIEW

•  Inflammation of the tissues around and supporting the tooth; the tooth support structures include the gum tissue (known as “gingiva”); the cementum and periodontal ligament (the cementum and periodontal ligament attach the tooth to the bone); and the alveolar bone (the bone that surrounds the roots of the tooth); periodontitis (inflammation/infection of the tissues around and supporting the tooth) indicates some degree of periodontal attachment tissue loss (that is, some loss of the structures [cementum, periodontal ligament, alveolar bone] that attach the tooth to the bone)

Signalment/Description of Pet

Species

•  Dogs
•  Cats (less common)

Mean Age and Range

•  More common in older pets

Signs/Observed Changes in the Pet

•  Swelling of the gum tissue (known as “gingival tissue”)
•  Bad breath (known as “halitosis”)
•  Redness or fluid build-up (edema) of the gums
•  Variable amounts of plaque (the thin, “sticky” film that builds up on the teeth; composed of bacteria, white-blood cells, food particles, and components of saliva) and tartar or calculus (mineralized plaque on the tooth surface)
•  Gum surfaces bleed easily on contact (for example, during play or physical examination)
•  Loose teeth, missing teeth, and exposure of roots of the teeth

Causes

•  Plaque bacteria (bacteria found in the thin, “sticky” film that builds up on the teeth)

Risk Factors

•  Toy breeds with crowded teeth
•  Dogs that groom themselves—causes hair to be imbedded in the tissue around the teeth (known as the “gingival sulcus”)
•  Other debilitating illnesses
•  Poor nutritional status

Treatment

Health Care

•  Professional cleaning
•  Periodontal surgery
•  The ultimate goal of periodontal therapy is to control plaque and prevent attachment loss; a willing pet and a client who can provide home care are important considerations in creating a treatment plan

Diet

•  Dry food or hard, biscuit-type foods are preferable to soft, sticky foods
•  Dental diets, such as Hill’s Prescription Diet t/d—specifically indicated to control plaque (the thin, “sticky” film that builds up on the teeth; composed of bacteria, white-blood cells, food particles, and components of saliva) and tartar or calculus (mineralized plaque on the tooth surface) in dogs and cats

Follow-Up Care

Patient Monitoring

•  The degree of periodontal disease determines recall interval; some pets are checked monthly, while others can be evaluated every 3–6 months

Preventions and Avoidance

•  Professional dental cleaning and home care are essential for prevention of periodontal disease
•  Your pet’s veterinarian will discuss home care and available products and will provide instructions for their use

Possible Complications

•  Loss of teeth; loss of bone structure in lower jaw (mandible), leading to shortened lower jaw; tongue protruding from mouth
•  Generalized infection in the body
•  Possible heart, liver and/or kidney disease

Expected Course and Prognosis

•  The response of the individual pet and the expected course and prognosis are highly variable
•  Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment can minimize the destructive effects of this disease

Key Points

•  Periodontal disease is the most common infectious disease in dogs and cats
•  Periodontal disease can lead to infection in other areas of the body and may cause heart, liver, and or kidney disease
•  Professional dental cleaning and home care are essential for prevention of periodontal disease
•  Your pet’s veterinarian will discuss home care and available products and will provide instructions for their use

Blackwell’s Five-Minute Veterinary Consult: Canine and Feline, Fifth Edition, Larry P. Tilley and Francis W.K. Smith, Jr. © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.