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Dental & Periodontal Problems in Pets

Like humans, pets also develop dental problems as well as problems around the tooth called periodontal problems. Regular check-up and care of tooth and gum is important to prevent bad breath and serious dental and periodontal problems.

Dental Tartar & Dental Plaque: Usually around the age of three years, you can see tartar on canine teeth. Since pets never brush their tooth and food particles get stuck between teeth and gums, it causes brownish deposits and discoloration of teeth.

Retained Baby Tooth Or Persistent Deciduous Tooth: Normally the adult tooth pushes out the baby tooth at the time of eruption. Sometimes, the baby tooth retains out of line producing malocclusion or bad bite. So, puppies of 3-4 months of age should be checked from time to time to see that their adult teeth are coming out in the normal position.

Malocclusion (Incorrect Bite): A pet’s bite is determined by how the upper and lower incisor teeth meet when the mouth is closed. The ideal occlusion is one in which the upper incisors just overlap and touch the lower incisors. This is called the scissor bite or normal bite. In even or level bites, the incisors meet edge to edge and are common occlusion. An incorrect bite interferes with the ability to grasp, hold and chew food.

Prognathism or overshot bite: When the upper jaw protrudes beyond the lower jaw causing the upper teeth to overlap the lower teeth without touching, the condition is called prognathism and it can cause injury to the soft parts of mouth.

Brachygnathism or undershot bite: It is the reverse of overshot bites where the lower jaw protrudes beyond the upper jaw. However, this is considered normal for brachycephalic or snub nosed breeds such as Bulldogs and Pugs.

Wry mouth: It is the worst of the malocclusion problems where one side of the jaw grows faster than the other, twisting the mouth. This can be a severe handicap in grasping and chewing food.
Unstable Jaw: This condition is seen in Pekingese, Chihuahuas and some other toy breeds. In this condition, the cartilage that joins the two sides of the lower jaw at the chin fails to calcify. The lower incisors that are set in this soft cartilage become loose and unstable. Infections descend to the roots of the tooth and destroy the cartilage. This allows the two sides of the jaw to detach and move independently. This condition can be caused by an incorrect calcium and phosphorus ratio in diet. The condition can be treated by removing the diseased teeth, antibiotics and stabilising the joint with wire and screw. If diet is the contributing factor, the diet must be corrected as well.

Periodontal disease is one of the most common problems seen in veterinary practice. ‘Periodontal’ comes from two Greek words that mean ‘around the tooth.’ Periodontal disease is a series of changes that are associated with inflammation and loss of deep supporting structures of teeth.

It occurs in two forms: the first is gingivitis, a reversible inflammation of gums. The second is periodontitis, an inflammation of the deeper structures supporting the teeth.
What is Gingivitis? Food particles and bacteria collect along the gumline forming plaque. If plaque is not removed, minerals in the saliva combine with the plaque and form tartar (or calculus) which adheres strongly to the teeth. Plaque starts to mineralise 3-5 days after it forms. The tartar is irritating to the gums and causes inflammation called gingivitis. This can be seen as reddening of the gums adjacent to the teeth and causes bad breath.

What is Periodontitis: If calculus is not removed, it builds up under the gums. It separates the gums from the teeth to form pockets and encourages even more bacterial growth. At this point the damage is irreversible and called periodontitis. It can be very painful and can lead to loose teeth, abscesses, and bone loss or infection.

Signs of Periodontal Disease

  • Bad breath to persistent bad breath
  • Red gums that bleed easily
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Loose or missing teeth
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach or intestinal upsets
  • Drooling
  • Difficulty chewing or eating
  • Irritability or depression

How is periodontal disease diagnosed?
A number of criteria are used to assess the oral health of a dog and assign a grade. These include the amount and distribution of plaque and calculus, health of the gingiva (gums), radiologic appearance, and the depth of infection.

Why it is important to treat dental and periodontal problems?
It is important to treat and control periodontal disease because of two main reasons:

• To maintain the health of teeth and gum
• To guard against infection spreading to other parts of the body.

What veterinary procedures are available in our country to treat dental and periodontal disease?
Dental Scaling: The teeth are professionally cleaned using ultrasonic dental scalar by a qualified vet.
Periodontal debridement: Periodontal debridement may be performed instead of root planing and gingival curettage. In this procedure, irritants to the tooth and root surface such as bacteria and endotoxins produced by the bacteria, are removed. This is accomplished through special ultrasonic scalers.
Gingivectomy: During a gingivectomy, hyperplastic or excess gingiva is removed. The area between this excess tissue and the tooth is a perfect habitat for bacteria.
Tooth extraction: In some cases, a tooth cannot be saved or the owner elects not to have other procedures performed. In these cases, tooth extraction is the only alternative.
Pain and anti-inflammatory medication: Medication for pain relief and to decrease the amount of inflammation may be administered post-operatively and for several weeks following the dental procedures.
Antibiotics: Antibiotic therapy is important. Commonly used antibiotics include amoxicillin-clavulanic acid (clavamox), clindamycin (antirobe), and cefadroxil. These antibiotics may be given 1-2 weeks post surgery.

How can you take care of your pet’s teeth at home?
Diet: Dry kibble diet or dry foods are abrasive and keep the teeth clean.
Brushing: Often you will start out with a soft finger brush for the first 2-3 months and then graduate to a bristle brush. Your veterinarian will explain to you the best tooth brushing routine for your dog.
Regular check-ups: Dogs with periodontal disease will need frequent check-ups to assess their oral health. For some animals, it may be advisable to recheck pocket depth 4-6 weeks after treatment. For others, routine examinations 2-4 times a year will be needed.

How can I prevent dental and periodontal problems in my pet?
Periodontal disease is irreversible. We do not want you or your dog to have to go through that diagnosis. Do not wait. Get your dog on a good dental care program Regular visits to your veterinarian, which include an oral exam
• Veterinary dental cleaning as advised
• Daily oral care

What will happen if I leave my pet’s dental and periodontal problem untreated?
Effects within the oral cavity include damage to or loss of gum tissue and bone around the teeth, development of a hole (‘fistula’) from the oral cavity into the nasal passages causing nasal discharge, fractures of the jaw following weakening of the jaw bone, and bone infection (osteomyelititis). Bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream and are carried around the body. Studies have shown that periodontal disease is associated with microscopic changes in the heart, liver and kidneys.

Dr Sharad Singh Yadav is the Chairman of Advanced Pet Hospital & Research Centre which is open 24 hours throughout the year and located in Bishal Nagar, Kathmandu. He may be contacted on tel: 4422855 or email: aphktm@gmail.com