What is Periodontal Disease

What is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease (PD) is the single most commonly diagnosed problem in small animal veterinary practice.  Approximately 85% of dogs and cats already have PD by the age of two years.  It is a chronic infection caused by plaque (bacteria and their toxins) that often gets a foothold within the first two years of life.  PD is often unsuspected and unrecognized until it has reached more advanced stages.  It is a persistent and progressive infection that advances in cycles. The result of PD is discomfort, pain, gum and bone (tissue) destruction with eventual tooth loss. The pet’s body and immune system are forced to fight a chronic battle every minute of the day against the invading organisms.  Oral infections are sources of bacteria and inflammation that may result in infection and damage to other organs.  Patients with an altered immune system are at increased risk for distant site infections.  When oral disease is present, bacteria may be released into the blood stream (bacteremia) every time the patient chews.  Intermittent bacteremia and chronic inflammation (of oral origin) may significantly affect overall health and longevity.  Chronic PD has a known association with diabetes, and diseases of the kidneys, liver, lungs and cardiovascular system in both humans and animals.

The cause of PD is “plaque”. Plaque is the technical term for a soft, sticky, almost invisible film (biofilm) which accumulates on teeth contains bacteria and toxins.  Plaque reaccumulates on the tooth’s surface within hours after a dental cleaning.  With effective oral hygiene, plaque accumulation will not occur and PD will be prevented.  When oral hygiene is insufficient, plaque can mineralize into calculus (tarter) within only a few days.  This very hard, brownish, unsightly material serves as increased surface area for more plaque accumulation.  Although plaque and calculus build up above (supra-gingival) and below (sub-gingival) the gum line, the sub-gingival material is responsible for inflammation and infection.  You cannot effectively remove calculus on your own.  It is highly resistant to being brushed or wiped off.  The only way to remove calculus is by a procedure called scaling.