You are not the only one who when taking to their pet to the veterinarian are told their pet needs a “dental” (periodontal therapy). Over 85% of all dogs and cats have some form of periodontal disease by the time they are only 3 years old.

Why is this important? On the surface, periodontal disease is one of the main factors causing “doggie breath”. It’s a surprise we let our pets near us sometimes – could you imagine if your significant other never brushed their teeth and never went to the dentist?! That brings the term ‘morning breath’ to a whole new level.

Oral health is important to help avoid periodontal disease. The reason your veterinarian, and your dentist, are concerned, is that periodontal disease is caused by bacteria. It is the overgrowth of bacteria that cause the foul smell. This same bacteria, when left unchecked, can cause some major issues in the mouth.

Periodontal disease starts when the bacteria combine with food particles to form plaque. Within a couple days, the plaque binds with minerals in the saliva to form tartar/calculus. This is the hard, yellow-brown substance that adheres strongly to the tooth. The bacteria is also what causes the redness or inflammation to the gums – known as gingivitis. Over time, the bacteria and inflammation work down the tooth roots, destroying the supporting structures of the tooth. This can be the ligament that holds the tooth or the actual bone surrounding the tooth. With more time, this destructive process spreads to the surrounding teeth. This advanced periodontal disease is a huge factor in tooth loss. Just as important, this process is a source of chronic pain.

In addition to the oral and chronic pain issues caused by periodontal disease, there are some additional whole body effects. The bacteria causing periodontal disease doesn’t just stay in the mouth. Once inflammation (gingivitis) starts, that bacteria has an easy route into the blood stream, where it can travel to and cause issues with the heart, kidneys and liver.

A professional cleaning (periodontal therapy) is the only way to remove the tartar/calculus and to reverse the gingivitis. Regretfully, advanced periodontal disease is not reversible. This is why regular professional cleanings and home care are necessary – and why it’s recommended we visit a dentist two times a year.

No veterinarian likes removing teeth due to advanced periodontal disease, which is why early prevention and treatment are key. Chances are your pet has some form of periodontal disease, so make an appointment with your veterinarian today to discuss what can be done.