Gum disease is caused by a bacterial infection of the tissue surrounding the teeth. This causes an inflammation of the gums, the surrounding bone and the ligaments which anchor the teeth. Untreated gum disease can result in tooth loss as the tissues will not provide the required amount of support. Poor quality oral hygiene, or no oral hygiene, can cause a build up of bacteria, or plaque, which causes gum disease. The breed of the dog, the genetics. the diet and age of the animal can also contribute to gum disease. As the bacteria accumulates, the waste products, which include ammonia, acids, hydrogen sulfide, and other compounds, also build up and can cause tissue damage. The natural response of the body to this can cause the break down of tissue and the loss of the supporting tissues of he tooth.
Gingivitis and periodontitis are the two forms of gum disease. Gingivitis cause the gums to become inflamed but the surrounding bone and ligaments are not affected yet. The gum changes color from a pink to red or purple and there is swelling on the edge of the gum. The gums can bleed on contact. Bad breath is also a symptom of gingivitis. If it is untreated, it can develop into periodontitis. Gingivitis can be treated by thoroughly cleaning the teeth. It is recommended that this is done by a professional. Below the gum line should also be cleaned. If there is no improvement, the animal should be re-examined in case more extensive cleaning is needed. After tooth cleaning is completed, the vet may apply a coating of sealant which will help prevent accumulation of bacteria and improve the healing. If there is no response to treatment, the animals should be examined for other disorders, such as diabetes or immune system diseases. Gingivitis may reappear if the oral hygiene is not maintained, and teeth are not free of plaque and kept clean. Brushing the teeth at home is important, alongside regular cleaning by the veterinarian.
Periodontitis is more severe and does affect the gum, bone and ligaments. It develops from years of tartar buildup, plaque build up and gingivitis. Periodontitis is not reversible and causes the permanent loss of supporting issue for the tooth. It is found in small dogs more than in large breed dogs. A dog with a diet of hard, dry kibble tend to develop less problems, as the chewing of he hard food has a mechanical cleaning effect on the teeth. It is common for the back teeth to be affected more often than the front teeth, and it is often the teeth of the upper jaw are affected more than those of the lower jaw. The surfaces of the teeth that are on the outside next to the cheek are often affected more severely than the inside surfaces near the tongue. Gingivitis often becomes noticeable at two years of age and improves with treatment, but periodontitis tends to begin between the ages of four and six. Untreated periodontitis results in tooth loss. Treatment for periodontitis includes thorough tooth cleaning by a professional. Above and below the gum line should be included in the cleaning. It may necessary to access the root surface which is a surgical procedure. Once the tooth has lost about 66% of the bone and root support, then it becomes impossible to save it. However, it is possible to save the tooth before this point. X-rays will show the extent of the loss of support systems, and are a routine part of the examination, diagnosis, and planning of treatment of a dog with periodontitis. The owner will need to follow the veterinarian’s instructions very carefully, andthe home care may include diet change, plaque prevention gel, oral rinses, and daily brushing. The teeth should also be cleaned regularly by a professional which will prevent further damage to the support system and help avoid relapse. In most cases, this is done every six months to one year.
Gum disease can not develop if the teeth are clean. It is recommended that the owner brush the dog’s teeth and keeps the animal on a diet which is tooth friendly. It is also recommended that the animal has regular dental examinations. The vet can apply a sealant barrier to the teeth, or there are plaque prevention gels available. The sealant or the gel help prevent bacteria by forming a barrier on the enamel which prevents plaque accumulation. It is possible that there may be vaccine developed to prevent periodontitis.
Endodontic disease is a disease which occurs inside the teeth. This can be caused by injury, tooth decay or tooth fracture. The animal will be treated by tooth extraction or a root canal procedure. The symptoms include loss of appetite, reddish brown or gray discoloration on the tooth and a painful gum which the animal will not allow to be touched. If it is advanced then a fistula may occur. Diagnosis can be difficult as the dog may try to cover the pain. X-rays are necessary to find the affected teeth and decide on the appropriate treatment.