Periodontitis, also known as periodontal disease, is among the most common health problems in veterinary practice. Indeed, over 80% of dogs older than three suffer from active dental diseases.
The problem is that only a few canines show visible signs of periodontitis, which is often painful for dogs, devastating their mouths and eroding gums. It leads to gum infections, missing teeth, bone loss, and other severe health problems.
That is why regular vet visits are critical so you can uncover, treat, or even prevent the problem.
What is periodontitis?
Periodontitis is a term describing the infection in a dog’s mouth, affecting its gums, teeth, and surrounding structures. It’s about the inflammation of the periodontium, i.e., the four tissues – gingiva, cementum, periodontal ligament, and alveolar bone – surrounding a tooth).
The disease begins with gingivitis (gum inflammation) and, if left untreated, spreads into teeth, destroying bones. As a result, a dog loses teeth and gets other organs (kidneys, heart, liver, and pancreas) affected.
Periodontitis has four stages:
- Gingivitis: gums are red, bad breath from the mouth
- Early periodontitis: up to 25% tooth support loss
- Established periodontitis: 25-50% support loss
- Advanced periodontitis: more than 50% tooth support loss
Along with the above-described health problems, the immune system of a dog suffers too: “Busy” with preventing oral bacteria from entering, it becomes less able to deal with its other day-to-day functions.
Reasons for periodontitis in dogs
What’s to blame for periodontitis in dogs? It’s the bacteria in a dog’s mouth, forming plaque on the teeth. With the minerals from saliva, this plaque hardens into tartar (dental calculus), firmly attached to the teeth, and starts to destroy gums and the periodontium.
All dogs suffer from the problem, but smaller breeds face it more often: Their crowded teeth, with less bone mass, accumulate food traces easier, mixing them with saliva and inhabiting more bacteria in the mouth. As a result, dental plaque and tartar appear faster.
The immune system of a dog starts fighting with the bacteria, which leads to inflammation. Gums pull away from teeth, creating so-called pockets – ideal for more bacteria to grow. The older a dog, the higher the risk of developing periodontitis.
Common reasons for abundant bacteria growth in a dog’s mouth:
- Poor nutrition: A lack of essential nutrients in food, no dry food with crunchy texture to help a dog “brush up” teeth.
- Poor oral hygiene: No dog-specific toothbrush and toothpaste, no certain toys created to reduce bacteria in a dog’s mouth.
- Chewing behavior: When a dog chews dirty toys, for example.
- Grooming habits: When a dog licks its coat frequently.
- Teeth alignment: Small breeds have more crowded teeth, which makes them more susceptible to dental diseases.
In a word
Periodontitis is a dental problem most dogs face. It’s caused by the build-up of plaque and tartar on the teeth, leading to serious health problems.
The most common reasons for periodontitis are poor nutrition and hygiene, so pet owners can easily prevent it by proper care and regular checkups at vet clinics.