When your dog eats, food particles naturally collect along his gum line, along with bacteria that can cause irritation and plaque buildup. Plaque is a soft, yellowish-brown material that, over time, develops into hard calculus, or tartar. As the plaque and tartar spread under the gum line, they begin to damage the supporting tissues of the teeth. This beginning stage of periodontal disease is gingivitis. With time, gingivitis progresses and causes damage to the supporting tissue and bone, leading to periodontitis.
In the early stages of gingivitis, you may notice swelling, irritation or redness along your dog’s gum line. As the gingivitis progresses, you may see bleeding from the gums, especially after your dog eats. Yellow or brown tartar stains on the teeth may be present, particularly near the gum line. One of the most characteristic signs of gingivitis is halitosis, or bad breath.
The goal for gingivitis treatment is to stop the progression toward periodontitis. If you notice gingivitis symptoms, talk to your veterinarian and schedule a cleaning. The veterinarian must place your dog under general anesthetic to clean and polish the teeth, removing plaque and calculus. Early treatment of gingivitis reverses the effects and stops the progression to periodontitis. At this stage, the damage is reversible.
Symptoms of periodontitis are more severe. The bad breath continues; you may notice abscesses in the gum, deep pockets of infection and pus oozing from the gum line. Your dog’s face may be sensitive to the touch, or he may paw at his mouth. He may have difficulty eating or chewing and may stop eating altogether. He may lose teeth, or have frequent nosebleeds or bouts of sneezing. Other symptoms include lack of interest in playing, irritability, drooling and weight loss.
As with gingivitis treatment, periodontitis treatment begins with a thorough dental cleaning under anesthetic. If damage to the surrounding tissue or teeth roots is severe, some or all of the teeth may need removal. Once the teeth are removed and the gums have healed, a toothless dog is able to eat moist food without complications. Antibiotics are administered for up to three weeks depending on the severity of the infection. Your veterinarian will instruct you on regular home care, including mouth rinses with a 0.2 percent chlorhexidine solution.
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