80-90% of dogs over the age of three have some component of periodontal disease

80-90% of dogs over the age of three have some component of periodontal disease (gum disease that affects the teeth and the structures that hold the teeth in place). This can go unnoticed due to a pet’s resistance to mouth exams or simply because it’s out of sight.

The first warning signs of dental disease are bad breath, changes in eating habits, or swelling on the cheek.

Periodontal disease not only affects their oral health but can also lead to severe systemic issues.

Periodontal disease begins subtly with plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins that coats the teeth. If not removed, this plaque hardens into tartar, which brushing alone cannot eliminate. As the disease progresses, plaque and tartar move below the gum line, releasing toxins that destroy the supportive tissues of the teeth, leading to pain, tooth loss, and potentially spreading bacteria to vital organs like the heart, kidneys, and liver.

What should you be on the look out for?

  • Persistent bad breath
  • Bleeding gums
  • Sensitivity around the mouth
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Inflamed, thickened, or receding gums
  • Loose, broken or missing teeth
  • Loss of appetite
  • Digestive upsets
  • Drooling
  • Difficulty chewing or eating
  •  Irritability
  • Purulent discharge around the tooth

At Home Care

  1. Diet: Feed your pet a species-appropriate, balanced diet with essential supplements.
  2. Regular Inspections: Frequently check your pet’s mouth for any signs of abnormalities.
  3. Daily Brushing: Use pet-safe toothpaste and brush your pet’s teeth daily.
  4. Stay Informed: Learn about your pet’s health to provide the best care possible.

Veterinary Care

  1. Routine Exams: Schedule annual or biannual physical exams, including a thorough oral evaluation by your veterinarian.
  2. Test for deficiencies and toxicities! We cannot know what our pets are deficient in if we do not perform thorough diagnostics tests.
  3. Professional Cleanings: Early-stage periodontal disease should be addressed with a professional dental cleaning under anesthesia accompanied by oral x-rays. Most periodontal lesions affecting the tooth root (like apical abscesses) can not be seen without the benefit of radiographs.
  4. Avoid Anesthesia-free cleanings. Not only do they not effectively clean under the gum line where disease occurs, it gives the owners a false sense of security that there is no periodontal disease. Sadly, most of what is cleaned off is on the enamel and is not the problem. These cleanings may remove “evidence” that there is a bigger issue under the gum line.
  5. Advanced Procedures: For advanced stages, procedures such as open root planning may be necessary to remove plaque, bacteria, and debris from periodontal pockets.
  6. Adjunct therapies such as ozone saline rinsing, hypochlorous acid rinses and intraoral laser therapy help healing and recovery.

A Healthy Mouth, A Healthy Pet

Many say health begins in the gut. I think health begins in the mouth, because the mouth is the most proximal part of the gut, with everything that happens in the mouth moving south.

Supporting a healthy terrain and healthy microbiome (in the mouth and gut) begins with conscious living. Reduce toxins in the diet, water and environment. Test for nutrient deficiencies and toxicities for targeted therapy. Detoxify all six organs of elimination and support mitochondrial function. Reduce “stress”, both physically and emotionally.

Remember, the journey to a healthy pet starts with you. Embrace the role of a vigilant and informed pet guardian and together, we can combat periodontal disease, one pet at a time.

“Health is not valued till sickness comes.” Thomas Fuller

Take a moment today to check your pet’s mouth and schedule a veterinary dental check-up if needed.

The images below are of a dog’s top teeth. The tooth with the arrow pointing towards it had to be extracted due to a severe root resorption. Confirming this requires a radiographic image, as shown in the below X-ray which reveals severe root destruction, illustrating why I advocate for a “testing, not guessing” approach. Without diagnostic dental radiographs, the tooth may not have been extracted and would have continued to be a source of pain and infection.

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