It’s a fact; keeping your pet’s mouth healthy will result in a healthier body.
As with humans, there is a very real link between periodontal disease (“peri” means around, “dontal” means tooth) and overall health. In humans, there is an association between oral disease and heart attacks and strokes. In dogs, periodontal disease has been linked to changes in internal organs.
Cause. The cause of periodontal disease is the same in cats and dogs as it is in humans. It starts with the growth of bacteria on the surface of teeth and surrounding tissues. Plaque, a bacteria/saliva mixture, will start to build up and will eventually mineralize into tarter. Tartar starts to form within a few days on a tooth surface that is not kept clean, and provides a rough surface that further enhances plaque accumulation.
Solid and gritty, tarter blocks the tooth from oxygen and this changes the type of bacteria that will live around the tooth. This type of bacteria produces toxins that injure the tissue. As the disease progresses, bacteria penetrate deeper into soft and connective tissues. If it becomes serious, bone and tooth loss is common.
Symptoms. Periodontal disease does not develop overnight. It happens gradually and often both pets and owners unknowingly become accustomed to its symptoms. Often, owners notice subtle changes in their pet, but they don’t attribute it to the disease that’s present in the mouth.
The most common symptoms of periodontal disease are:
- Bad breath
- Bleeding gums
- Loss of appetite
- Dropping of food while eating
- Loose teeth
Care. The key to the management of periodontal disease is prevention. If teeth are cleaned frequently, bacteria and tartar will not build up and the gums will stay healthy. A daily oral hygiene regimen is the key and the gold standard is brushing.Daily chewing activities also can be effective in maintaining oral health. Rawhide and other dental chews as well as special dental treats or biscuits can help reduce plaque and tartar between professional dental cleanings.
If left untreated, periodontal disease is the single greatest cause of health problems in pets. Fortunately, it’s completely preventable. By keeping your pet’s teeth clean, you will be helping to provide your pet with a lifetime of general good health.