It's hard to find a dog who doesn't mind having his mouth pried open, but sometimes doing so is the key to saving a dog's life. Not just by removing an obstruction -- also by diagnosing, treating and preventing serious illness. Canine periodontitis is a progressed stage of periodontal disease. It's very uncomfortable. Inflamed gums are symptomatic of periodontitis and may lead to other dental concerns, including tooth loss.
Disease of the Gums
While periodontitis may be thought of as a condition pertaining to the overall health of the teeth, it actually refers to the gums. The word "periodontium" is a Greek word translating to "around the tooth." Dogs suffering from periodontitis will experience deterioration of their gums while their teeth are ostensibly not affected. The teeth can, however, become loose and fall out if the area surrounding the tooth deteriorates significantly.
Cause of Periodontitis
Some dogs may have chewing habits that cause plaque to build up significantly around their gums. Food may become lodged or stuck around the teeth and gums, and this can contribute to the buildup of plaque that leads to periodontal disease. An inappropriate diet can contribute to plaque buildup, and advanced age has a role. Allowing your dog to chew on fruits and veggies such as apples or carrots from time to time can simulate brushing; these fruits and veggies are like natural toothbrushes for a dog's teeth. Plaque buildup can progressively get worse when a dog does not receive treatment.
Gingivitis is the first stage of periodontal disease. Dogs with gingivitis may exhibit inflammation of the gums. Usually in this stage, it is still early enough that treatment can be given to reverse the gingivitis before it progresses to end-stage periodontitis, where extraction of teeth may be necessary. Usually, an oral exam is recommended, because probing and radiographs may be required. If this is the case, your veterinarian may need to have your dog put under local anesthesia in order to adequately exam your dog's mouth.
Treatment and Prevention
Periodontitis requires thorough cleanup of plaque and calculus on the teeth and gum tissue. Your dog's veterinarian may combine scaling, root planing, antibiotics, surgery and tissue rejuvenation to treat periodontitis. To prevent periodontitis from recurring, daily home care that includes brushing and dental treats may be advised. Brushing after scaling occurs is important to keep your dog's teeth plaque-free. Your vet may recommend oral rinses or plaque-preventative sealants, or both.
Pamela Miller has been writing for health, beauty and animal health/welfare publications for seven years. Miller holds a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Communication from MTSU.