Adult dogs have 42 teeth, and every one of those pearly whites usually develops a layer of plaque by the age of three. Up to 85 percent of dogs have some stage of dental disease by this age, and it only continues to worsen if we don’t stop this potentially deadly disease in its tracks.
Stages of dental disease
Grading dental disease allows us to create a protocol for your pet’s oral care. After a thorough examination and dental X-rays, we can determine how severe your dog’s dental disease may be, and what measures are necessary to preserve his oral health. Since the majority of our canine companions have some form of dental disease by the age of three, a solid dental care routine must be followed to prevent tooth loss, infection, and pain. Some pets may require dental cleanings as often as every six months, while other dogs may not need a professional cleaning more frequently than every couple of years. Genetics, diet and nutrition, and physical conformation play large roles in the accumulation of tartar and progression of dental disease. To plan an appropriate dental health care strategy for your pet, we follow this dental disease grading scale:
- Stage 1: Gingivitis — Minor gum redness and irritation is apparent along the gum line, and a light layer of plaque covers the teeth. There is no separation of the tooth and gum at this stage, and a veterinary dental cleaning can reverse this condition.
- Stage 2: Early periodontitis — Gingivitis is more advanced, affecting all the visible gum tissue. Plaque is spreading, covering the entire tooth and forging under the gum line. Your dog has bad breath (halitosis), and he is feeling pain because of swollen gums. Attachment loss is noted in this stage, with up to 25 percent of periodontal ligaments, gum tissue, and bone structures becoming damaged. Veterinary intervention and proper dental home care can prevent this stage from becoming irreversible.
- Stage 3: Moderate periodontitis — Infection from tartar buildup is damaging the gum tissue, causing bleeding and mouth pain. Teeth may become loose at this stage due to the loss of 25 to 30 percent of attachment support. Your pet may refuse to eat, and halitosis is a constant presence. Intensive veterinary intervention is necessary to prevent further damage and decay.
- Stage 4: Advanced periodontitis — At this point, more than half of the tooth’s support is lost. Large amounts of tartar have amassed, even under the gum line, leading to gingival swelling and bleeding, receding gums, and pus accumulation. Chronic bacterial infection is destroying the gingiva, teeth, and jaw bone, allowing bacteria to escape into the bloodstream and harm organs throughout the body.
Effects of dental disease
Beginning slowly, dental disease gains momentum, day by day. It takes a mere 24 hours for plaque to form an insidious film on your pet’s teeth, hardening into calculus within five days. Daily tooth brushing sessions are crucial to break this dental decay process. If dental disease progresses, signs of poor oral health include:
- Red, swollen gums
- Dropping food
- Chewing on one side of the mouth
- Avoiding the food dish
- Pawing at the mouth
- Swelling below the eyes
- Bleeding gums
- Loose teeth
- Yellow-brown buildup on teeth
- Decreased appetite
While dental disease wreaks havoc inside your dog’s mouth, it can also cause widespread disease throughout his entire body, affecting the:
A Purdue University study has linked gum and dental disease with heart disease in dogs. “Sticky” bacteria found within a dog’s mouth can adhere to valves and arterial walls, leading to potentially fatal bacterial endocarditis and heart disease. Bacteria traveling throughout the bloodstream can also become trapped in the toxin-filtering components of the kidneys and liver, snowballing and causing illness. Anywhere there is blood supply, oral bacteria can travel, including the muscles, lungs, and brain.
Treatment of dental disease
The war on dental disease is never-ending, but staying ahead of this disease progression can add up to two years to your pet’s life. It’s certainly worth the dedication and effort to provide top-notch health care for your beloved companion, and we are here to help every step of the way. To formulate a dental health care plan, consider following these tips:
- Implement a tooth brushing routine.
- Choose treats, chews, and supplements scientifically proven to slow tartar accumulation.
- Take frequent peeks inside your pet’s mouth to search for signs of disease.
- Collaborate with your veterinary team to provide professional cleaning and dental care.
Need some help brushing up on dental care for your dog? Call our office.