Dental (periodontal) disease


What is periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease is disease of the structures surrounding and supporting the tooth – the gums (gingiva), the jaw bone and the ligament holding the tooth in the bone. Periodontal disease usually results from the build-up of plaque and tartar ('dental calculus') on teeth that are not regularly cleaned. The most noticeable sign of periodontal disease is gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums. This is reversible with treatment. As disease progresses and the bone becomes involved, changes frequently become irreversible.

Is periodontal disease harmful to my pet?

Plaque, tartar and periodontal disease initially cause bad breath and oral discomfort or pain. If left to progress, it will eventually lead to loss of teeth and bone, making it more difficult and painful to eat. In severe cases, abscesses can form or the jaw can fracture. Not only that, but periodontal disease makes it easier for bacteria from the mouth to spread via the blood stream to other parts of the body, leading to generalised infections sometimes involving the heart and kidneys.

How do I prevent periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease can be prevented by stopping tartar from building up on your pet's teeth. There are two main ways to do this:

  1. Provide a dental food at least every second day. These foods are specifically formulated to abrade the surface of the teeth and scrape away plaque before it hardens to form tartar (it takes about 48 hours for plaque to become tartar). Royal Canin dental food is very palatable. We have free samples available in the clinic.
  2. Brush your pet's teeth at least every second day. We sell 'Dental Starter Packs' which contain finger toothbrushes, which are very easy to use in a well-behaved dog. A selection of flavoured pet toothpastes are also available.

What if there is already significant periodontal disease?

If periodontal disease is already present, tooth brushing and dental food will not reverse the damage and your pet will need a dental scaling procedure under general anaesthesia. We will usually recommend a pre-anaesthetic blood screen in older patients so that we can identify any underlying condition that may mean that general anaesthesia is too risky. As with any general anaesthetic, you will need to fast your pet from about 10pm the night before and bring your pet to the clinic between 8.30 and 9am. Your pet will go home later the same day.

What is involved in a dental procedure?

We provide IV fluids throughout the procedure and employ the safest possible anaesthetic protocol. We use an ultrasonic descaling tool to remove all calculus from the surface of the teeth and provide a thorough clean. Sometimes we need to remove teeth that are very loose or diseased. It is hard to predict whether this will be necessary until we thoroughly examine the mouth under anaesthesia. Before waking your pet up, we polish the teeth to remove every last trace of plaque and leave the mouth sparkling clean! Sometimes we will provide antibiotics or pain relief for you to give at home, depending on how diseased the teeth were and what sort of extractions were necessary. After the procedure, you should start home maintenance to prevent further tartar build-up.