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Periodontal disease: understanding it for better prevention

3 March 2023

“Like us, dogs and cats can get cavities.  True or false ?”

It’s true…but it’s rare.

The disease that most often affects the oral cavity of our pets is periodontal disease.

 

Perio what ?

In ancient Greek para means around, and odonte means tooth.

The tooth, embedded in the jawbone protected by the gum, is nourished by blood vessels and innervated by nerves.

Moreover, the tooth is not welded to the jawbone: it is attached to it by a ligament, which holds it firmly in place.

The periodontium is the entire supporting environment of the tooth, and periodontal disease is the condition that affects this space.

 

Is periodontal disease common ?

Yes, in fact it is the most common oral disease in our pets. Up to 8 out of 10 dogs and cats are affected, and this is true from the age of 2 or 3 years.

 

It all starts with plaque

The oral cavity of domestic carnivores contains more than 300 types of bacteria.

Some of these bacteria stick to the teeth, creating a bacterial biofilm. The biofilm layers will build up into dental plaque and then mineralise, forming tartar. Tartar has a rough surface, which makes it even easier for bacteria to adhere.

This is how the vicious cycle of tartar build-up begins.

  

Periodontal disease

Tartar does not (yet) mean periodontal disease. However, the tartar build-up will quickly attack the gums and cause inflammation. The gums become red and painful and your pet has bad breath. This is gingivitis, the first stage of the disease.

Then the inflammation can progress deeper, attack the alveolar bone and destroy the ligament. A pocket develops between the gum and the tooth, which becomes loose. At this stage, the damage is irreversible.

 

 

Can periodontal disease cause complications ?

The infection can spread along the root of the tooth, causing an abscess, osteomyelitis (bone infection), or even a fracture of the mandible.

Bacteria can also spread throughout the animal’s body, causing damage to the liver, kidneys or heart.

How is periodontal disease treated ?

The best treatment is still prevention. Good oral hygiene can prevent tartar build-up. You can also offer your pet objects or food bars to gnaw on, or feed them dry food formulated to limit tartar.

Buccaclean® gel, a gel to be applied between the lips and the gums, limits bacterial growth and adhesion. It also soothes the gums in case of inflammation. It is a good alternative to daily tooth brushing which many owners find tedious2.

In more advanced stages, your vet may need to manage the disease by scaling, combined with medical or surgical treatment.

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