Dental disease is the most common health problem in pets today. By the age of 2, 8-% of dogs and 70% of cats have some degree of dental disease. The first stage of dental disease is irritation of the gums around the base of the teeth (gingival). This results in exposure of the roots. Ultimately, this leads to infection, erosion of bone and other supporting tissues, and finally tooth loss. However, severe periodontal disease can lead to pathological fractures of the lower jaw bones, and/or erosion of the ventral part of the nasal sinuses leading to an infection that spans the maxilla (upper jaw bone) and nasal sinuses, called an oronasal fistula.
Once tartar forms, a professional cleaning is necessary. Tarter is cemented plaque, which tooth brushing or chewing will not remove. Some dogs need yearly or bi-yearly cleanings; other dogs need a cleaning only once every few years.
Proper cleaning of the teeth requires complete cooperation of the patient so plaque and tartar can be removed thoroughly, general anesthesia is required. Although anesthesia always carries a degree of risk, the risk is quite small when proper preventative monitoring devices are used and safe anesthetics utilized, even for older dogs and cats. Pre anesthesia blood work is recommended for any patients 6 years of age and younger, and is required for patients 7 years of age or older to ensure that there is not any underlying condition?s that may compromise the patient's safety during the procedure.
If tartar remains on teeth:
1) The tartar can mechanically push the gums away from the roots of the teeth. This allows the teeth to loosen in their sockets and infection to enter the root socket. The teeth will loosen and fall out or have to be extracted.
2) Oral infection sets in, resulting in gingivitis, tonsillitis, and pharyngitis (sore throat). Although antibiotics may temporarily suppress the infection, if the tartar is not removed from the teeth, infection will return quickly and worsen.
3) Infection within the mouth has the potential to be picked up by the blood stream and carried to other parts of the body. Kidney infections, liver infection, as well as infections involving the heart valves, frequently begin in the mouth.
Periodontal Disease Facts
-Periodontal disease is the number one health problem in small animal patients.
-By 2 years of age, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have some form of periodontal disease. Small-and toy-breed dogs are particularly susceptible.
-Even after teeth are completely cleaned, plaque forms on tooth surfaces within 24 hours.
-Lack of homecare for 1 week can result in gingivitis in some patients; for 3 weeks in all patients.
-One veterinary study found that pockets became reinforced within 2 weeks of dental cleaning if homecare was not performed.
-Research has shown that inflammation persists while the gingival (gums) is exposed to plaque but that inflammation will resolve after plaque removal.
-Dental disease, especially periodontal disease (bone infection), is the number one cause of oral osteomyelitis- an area of dead, infected bone.
-The size of the oral cavity (and teeth) of animal patients means that periodontal infection likely represents a more severe issue in veterinary patients than in the vast majority of humans.
-It is critical to note that even gingivitis (i.e., no bone loss) can create systemic consequences.
-Avoiding professional cleanings is not good medicine, especially in pets susceptible to the negative effects of bacteremias, such as those with diabetes, mellitus (bacteria in the blood stream), liver/kidney disease, or heart murmurs/low grade heart disease.
-These patients should undergo professional dental therapy due to the health benefits it provides.