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Two Common Oral Conditions - Periodontal Disease and Broken Teeth
When performing a Comprehensive Oral Health Assessment the two most common conditions that we find in dogs and cats are Periodontal Disease and Broken Teeth.
Periodontal Disease is considered the most common infection in both man and animals. In fact, it is considered by many veterinarians to be the most common disease found in pets. The purpose of this article is to give you a brief overview of what it is and why it is so important to detect.
What is Periodontal Disease and how does it occur?
Periodontal Disease is a combination of infection and inflammation of the tissues that surround the tooth (the Periodontium). After cleaning a thin film quickly collects on the teeth; the film is invaded by bacteria within 12 hours(Plaque). If this plaque is not brushed off completely within 3 days it will mineralize into Calculus (Tartar). Calculus has to be professionally removed by scaling, brushing will not remove it.
The pet's immune system reacts to the bacteria by causing inflammation. In addition tothat, some of the bacteria release toxins that create additional inflammation.The tissues surrounding the teeth get caught in a war zone. The result is destruction of these tissues (bone, gum tissue and periodontal ligament). The only way to stop the destructive process is to professionally clean the area(scaling, polishing, root planning & subgingival curettage).
How can I tell if my Pet has Periodontal Disease?
Sometimes you can find signs in your pet, yet sometimes you can't. Periodontal Disease can be silent and go undetected (without a Periodontal Examination). Common Indications of Periodontal Disease:
1. Bad Breath (Halitosis) or "Fish Breath",
2. Accumulations of Plaque and Calculus on Teeth (Dirty Teeth),
3. Red, Inflamed,Bleeding Gums
Yet, sometimes we have found patients that have significant destruction of tissue under the gum line with no visible sign of problems above the gum line. This can only be detected with a thorough evaluation under anesthesia.
What can happen if Periodontal Disease is left Untreated?
Tissue and bone destruction can lead to pain, discomfort and tooth loss. The infection and inflammation is believed to affect the kidneys, liver, heart and lungs. Chronic infection stresses the immune system Bad breath can be offensive and unhealthy, it breaks the "human-animal bond". Infections and abscesses can occur in the nasal and sinus passages. Jaw fractures can occur In extreme cases the jawbone can become chronically infected.
What can I do if my pet has Periodontal Disease?
The first step is to do a complete Periodontal Examination including Dental Radiographs.Based on the findings we can then prescribe the proper treatment which could include scaling, polishing, root planing, GTR (Guided Tissue Regeneration),Periodontal Surgery or Extraction.
You will find that once the infection and inflammation is under control that the pet will look and feel much better. Once the mouth is clean again we can discuss a custom home care and follow-up program.
The second most common abnormal oral findings are Broken Teeth and for some reason Broken Teeth are very misunderstood in our pets.
The facts are:
What are the treatment options for broken teeth?
Resin sealants are possible if the fracture is not deep but extractions may be the only treatment possible in some teeth. This is always a valid option to eliminate pain and infection. If you prefer to try to save the tooth a referral to a Veterinary Dentist for a Root Canal is also an option.
The Importance of Dental Radiography
Dental radiographs are necessary to properly evaluate and monitor broken teeth. It is impossible to properly evaluate an affected tooth without them.
What can I do to avoid broken teeth in my pet?
It is important not to give your pet hard objects to chew on (bones, cow hooves, Nylabones, hard compressed raw hide, ice, etc.). It is a dental myth that they need them to keep their teeth clean. Brushing is the best way to reduce plaque and calculus accumulation and to avoid Periodontal Disease.
Something that most people don't know is that tennis balls are also bad for your pet's teeth.The texture of the ball can actually wear down the enamel of the teeth! Soft& flexible rubber toys & balls are much safer.
Dental Myths Exposed
They've been passed on from generation to generation. You've heard them, I've heard them, and I was taught them by the Veterinarians that preceded me. Here are a few "truths" you've probably heard that I would consider Dental Myths.
Myth #1 - Give your dog Milk Bone - Dog Biscuits to keep your pet's teeth clean.
Milk Bones have never been scientifically shown to reduce plaque or calculus. There are certain dental diets and chew devices that have been scientifically shown to slow plaque and calculus accumulation. Even with these more effective products,however, regular dental checkups and professional cleanings are needed.
While itis important to slow down plaque and calculus accumulation on teeth, a clean crown doesn't necessarily mean there is not a problem. We have seen numerous patients with nice, clean teeth that still had significant disease under the gum line.
Myth #2 - Dogs should chew on bones to keep their teeth clean.
Certain bones will help remove plaque and calculus from teeth. Yet, they will also break teeth. A dog's teeth were not designed to chew on bones, cow hooves,Nylabones or anything else that are hard and rigid. A dog's enamel is thinner than a person's and they have 4 - 10 times the bite force as a person. If they bite down on a hard substance with no "give" to it, the tooth will break. If you choose to give these hard objects to your pet, you are putting their important chewing teeth at risk.
We can discuss with you how to create a custom oral hygiene program for your pet that is safe for your pet's teeth.
Myth #3 - Dogs & cats don?t feel pain like humans and broken teeth don?t seem to bother them.
A lot of research was done in the area of pain in animals in the 1990s. The researchers found that the pain response of a dog or cat is the same as a human. They feel pain just as we do. They just hide their pain.
Our pet's survival instinct has them mask their pain just as animals in the wild hide it.A hurt animal in the wild will become food for other animals; therefore they learn to hide pain to survive. This instinct is still present in our pets. We will often see our patients have a great improvement in their personality, seem happier and more energetic or act younger or more like themselves. When you remove their source of oral pain, they feel better.
Myth #4 - Pets seem to do fine with broken teeth,they don?t need to be treated.
Pets tolerate pain and get by to survive. Yet, when we treat teeth or extract them, they feel and do much better. In the early stages broken or damaged teeth are acutely painful. As the nerve dies the pain lessens until the infection in the inside of the tooth breaks out into the bone. At this point the patient experiences severe pain.
Broken and damaged teeth need to be treated. We hope that this information is enlightening and helps you better understand misinformation that has been passed on unconsciously for generations.