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By Liss Scott

Oral hygiene for your dog

The American Veterinary Dental Society reports that eighty percent of dogs show signs of oral disease by age three. This may be because most pets with painful dental conditions do not show obvious clinical signs to the owner, as they tend to develop gradually and may escape notice by passing as common aging and bad breath.

That being said, it is important to remember that periodontal disease is a common problem in dogs, especially the smaller breeds, and a veterinarian should be checking the dog's mouth at every visit.

Negative effects of poor oral hygiene in dogs

Toxins from periodontal disease are absorbed into the dog's bloodstream and pass through the kidneys, liver and brain to be filtered. Small infections occur at this point, causing serious and sometimes fatal damage.

Factors that affect the development of periodontal disease

  • Home care: regular brushing of teeth can reduce the risk of periodontal disease

  • Mouth environment: open-mouth breathing causes harder-to-remove plaque, and excess acid in the dog's saliva can cause an increase of plaque in general

  • Grooming habits: hair accumulation and matting around the tooth can increase the development of tartar

  • Diet and chewing: hard dog food helps to keep plaque from forming on teeth

  • Breed and genetics: small breeds have a higher risk because their teeth are often crowded together

  • Age: periodontal disease is more common in older animals

Signs of periodontal disease

  • Pus around the tooth

  • Constant bad breath

  • Bleeding gums

  • Inflamed, hyperplastic, or receding gums

  • Loose or missing teeth

  • Drooling

  • Problems eating

  • Irritability or depression

  • Mouth sensitivity

  • Pawing at the mouth

How to prevent periodontal disease

To keep your dog's mouth healthy, provide it with a well-balanced, meat-based dog food. Encouraging your dog to chew on treats such as rawhide chew toys, hard rubber chew toys, or nylon chew toys is a form of exercise for their teeth and can help keep mouth structures healthy. Brushing your dog's teeth would help, too, but only if done on a nearly daily basis, no matter what their diet is. Routine oral hygiene visits with ultrasonic cleaning and close inspection of the teeth and gums are also important in preventing periodontal disease.

Treatment of periodontal disease

Treatment depends on the severity of the periodontal disease, also called the "grade" of the disease.

Grade One or Two

A dental cleaning and polishing will be performed. Plaque and buildup are removed and the teeth are then polished to remove scratches that would assist in future buildup.

Aftercare includes a regular brushing and home dental routine.

Grade Three and Four

  • root planing: removing residue and diseased bony tissue

  • subgingival curettage: removal of diseased outer or connective tissue

  • periodontal debridement: ultrasonic scalers remove irritants to the tooth

  • gingivectomy: removal of hyperplastic or excess gums

  • periodontal surgery: these involve opening the gums over the root of the tooth

  • special therapeutics: products that can stimulate bone and periodontal growth

  • tooth extraction

Aftercare includes, but is not limited to, pain and anti-inflammatory medication, antibiotics, topical medications, and brushing.

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