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'Periodontal disease’ is a collective term for several inflammatory conditions in the mouth.  It is surprisingly common in dogs and cats with studies showing that more than 70% of cats and 80% of dogs over three years old are suffering from some form of it.  Periodontal disease is caused by a build-up of plaque and tartar on the teeth and gums. 


The most common conditions are:

Gingivitis – this is caused by plaque bacteria which colonise the space between the teeth and the gum, causing inflammation. It is generally reversible with treatment

Periodontitis – if left untreated, gingivitis can develop into this more serious condition which can cause irreversible damage.

Periodontal disease starts when plaque and bacteria accumulate on the teeth of dogs and cats.  Over time, if they are not removed, disease-causing bacteria start to attach themselves to the plaque. This causes inflammation that in time, results in gingivitis.  Meanwhile, some of the plaque calicifies into a substance called calculus or tartar – which is usually a light brown colour.  This sticks to the teeth and can even cover the whole tooth, allowing more bacteria to lodge on its porous surface, together with food debris.  Bad breath can be caused by volatile sulphurs released by the bacteria.

As the gums become inflamed, the gap between the tooth and the gum margin becomes deeper.  This just adds to the problem as yet more bacteria find their way in and the problem worsens.  At this stage, gingivitis is usually painful but reversible with treatment to remove the plaque and calculus. If it’s not treated, it can transform itself into the more serious condition of periodontitis.  Not all dogs and cats develop this condition but, for those that do, it can only be resolved by veterinary treatment as they may develop abscesses, lose teeth or suffer from other oral problems.

Prevention is better than cure and these simple steps will help you improve your pet’s oral health and reduce the risk of tooth and gum disease.

  • Brushing your dog’s teeth is the most effective way to remove plaque. Always use a toothbrush and toothpaste designed for pets as some of the ingredients in human toothpaste are toxic to dogs.

  • If you find it difficult to brush your pet’s teeth, you can use a water additive, like Vet Aquadent, which is simply added to drinking water to reduce plaque formation and freshen breath.

  • You can also use an oral rinse, like Hexarinse, once a day in your pet’s mouth. Hexarinse contains chlorhexidine which is a well-known anti-plaque agent.  It will help to reduce the level of bacteria and remove food debris

  • Adjust your pet’s diet. Wet food diets provide no abrasive action against the teeth but dry food kibble is more abrasive and can help to prevent plaque build-up.

  • If your pet will tolerate it, look inside his or her mouth regularly to check for signs such as red, sore-looking gums or brown staining on the teeth.

 If you have any concerns please enquire about booking a dental health check with one of our Veterinary Nurses.

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