When it comes to oral health, there is one enemy that can cause a whole mess of problems- plaque. A sticky, invisible substance made of bacteria and food particles, it forms over the teeth. As it sits there it combines with the minerals in saliva over several days to form the hard brown deposit known as tartar or calculus. It continues to develop, adding new layers to the tartar. While it certainly looks ugly, what you are seeing is just the tip of the iceberg.
While the tartar is forming, below the gum line toxins from the bacteria in the plaque causing irritation and destroy the tissue surrounding the roots. This is known as periodontal disease. Gingivitis is the early form of this disease where the gums are inflamed, and swollen but tissue destruction hasn’t begun. With proper care, gingivitis can be reversed. Periodontitis is the later form where the fibers that keep the tooth in place are destroyed causing deep pockets around the root. Bone destruction may even occur. At this stage teeth become loose and can cause pain. Periodontitis can not be reversed, but with proper care, further destruction can be slowed or prevented.
The tissue destruction gives the bacteria access to the blood vessels sending the bacteria through the body in the blood system. This bacteria has been shown to have an effect on the heart, liver and kidneys. High bacteria levels in the blood can also make it hard to regulate a diabetic pet’s blood glucose.
Periodontal disease is considered the most common disease in adult dogs and cats, but as you can see it doesn’t just stop at the mouth. Good oral health can help keep your pet in good general health. Next week I’ll write about how periodontal disease is treated and what steps you can take to prevent it.
Did you miss Part 1? Check out Pet Dental Health: The Tooth and Nothing but the Tooth