Periodontal Disease FAQ

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Severe periodontal disease in a 10-year old Poodle

What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is inflammation of some or all of the tooth's support. When compared to gingivitis, periodontitis indicates bone loss. If left untreated periodontitis may cause loose painful teeth as well as internal disease.

What causes periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is caused by plaque (bacteria). Bacteria is attracted to the tooth surface within hours of a teeth cleaning. Within days, the plaque becomes mineralized producing calculus. As plaque ages and gingivitis develops into periodontitis (bone loss).

What are the signs?
Halitosis or bad breath is the primary sign of periodontal disease. Dogs and cats' breath should not have a disagreeable odor. When periodontal disease advances, inability to chew hard food as well as excessive drooling with or without blood may occur.

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Certified veterinary
technician examining
periodontal pocket depths

How is periodontal disease diagnosed?
Bone loss from periodontal disease occurs below the gumline. In order to evaluate the stage of disease as well as the best treatment, your pet must be examined under general anesthesia. In addition to a visual examination, x-rays and instruments to measure bone loss are used.

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Curette used to remove tartar from
below the gumline after the teeth
have been ultrasonicly cleaned

How is periodontal disease treated?
Treatment depends on the severity of disease. Grade one and two gingivitis can be treated by teeth cleaning, polishing, and the application of fluoride to help prevent plaque accumulation. Grade three disease will require deep scaling. Once grade four disease occurs, surgery is necessary to treat the affected teeth.

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Surgical removal of excessive gum tissue
in a Boxer

Medication may be dispensed to use after the teeth cleaning to treat and help prevent periodontal disease progression. Daily tooth brushing is the key to help prevent plaque build up. Special foods are also available to help control calculus.

What is the prognosis for periodontal disease?
Gingivitis is treatable and curable with daily tooth brushing. Periodontal disease is not curable once bone loss occurs, but is controllable once treated and followed up with strict home care.


This page last updated on October 31, 2000
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Jan Bellows, DVM
All Pets Dental Clinic
17100 Royal Palm Blvd.
Weston, FL 33326
(954) 349-5800