Periodontal disease (issues concerning your pet’s teeth) consistently remains one of the most common diseases seen in veterinary practices today. Studies have shown that 85% of dogs over the age of 4 years have some degree of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is the inflammation or infection of the tissues that support the teeth and hold them in their bony sockets. The periodontal tissues include: gingiva (gums), periodontal ligament (ligament that holds the root to bone), cementum (root surface), and alveolar bone (socket). Periodontal disease is classified as a combination of two clinical entities, gingivitis, which is a reversible process, and periodontitis, which is the active breakdown of the deeper periodontal tissues such as periodontal ligament, cementum or bone. Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gingiva and can be caused by chemical, mechanical, neoplastic, and infectious etiologies. Periodontitis is the active destruction of tissue attachment between tooth and peridontium and is diagnosed when there is visible inflammation and the loss of bone. The loss of tissue attachment and bone results in “pockets” of disease between the gum tissue and the tooth. This loss of attachment allows for constant sources of infection, weakened areas of bone, mobile teeth, and eventually tooth loss if the process is not recognized and treated.
There are many factors that influence the development of periodontal disease in pets: age, diet, shape of teeth, occlusion, bacterial flora, immune status, general health, genetic predisposition, lack of oral hygiene, size and shape of dental arches, breed and chewing habits. Plaque, a biofilm of glycoproteins and bacteria, has been shown to be directly associated with periodontal disease. Therefore, if plaque can be controlled, periodontal disease should not develop. Due to the inherent nature of biofilms, mechanical removal, such as brushing, has proven to be the best method of control. The goal of periodontal therapy is to remove any current disease, try to establish a healthier or more normal periodontal architecture, and maintain the periodontal health by routine homecare.