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Dental Care | Periodontal Disease

What is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease is a painful condition that involves the destruction of the structures holding the tooth in place (gums, periodontal ligament, alveolar bone, and outer layer of the tooth roots). It is the most common clinical condition affecting 80% of dogs by age two, and 70% of cats by the age of three. Periodontal disease can be treated if caught early. However as the disease progresses, harmful plaque-causing bacteria destroy the bone and ligaments around the teeth, leading to an often painful bite and loose teeth. Advanced conditions of periodontal disease usually require extensive dental surgery to extract all teeth that are affected. The infection that occurs with periodontal disease has the ability to negatively impact other organs in the body, such as the liver and kidneys.

How Can I tell if My Pet has Periodontal Disease?

In short, you can’t.

By the time your pet begins to show symptoms, like halitosis (bad breath), loose teeth, and reluctance to eat or play with their favorite toys, there has already been significant damage done to their mouth. White teeth do not mean your pet is free from periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease starts when bacteria becomes trapped under the gum-line, where over time it can invade the surrounding tissues and cause an infection (this is why your dentist wants you to floss and brush your teeth daily).

The only way to correctly identify periodontal disease is with yearly COHATs performed under general anesthesia by your trusted veterinary surgical team. At this time, your pet’s mouth can be thoroughly evaluated, cleaned, and radiographed to identify bone loss, gum recession, and other diseases that involve the tooth root and surrounding bone attachments.

How can I Prevent Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease is preventable, and if caught early enough, treatable. Just like in humans, proper dental care begins at home. Daily brushing is the gold standard in all species, including humans, to prevent plaque-causing bacteria from adhering to the tooth surface. In addition, feed diets and treats that bear the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of acceptance. These products have been thoroughly studied by their parent companies and are proven to reduce the amount of plaque and/or tartar by 10%.

Although a product bears the VOHC seal of acceptance, a 10% reduction in plaque or tartar alone will not prevent periodontal disease. Therefore, a multi-modal approach that also includes yearly veterinary dental examinations and COHATs under general anesthesia is an important part of your pet’s oral healthcare regiment.

Annual COHAT procedures performed under general anesthesia allow your trusted veterinarian to thoroughly examine and clean each tooth, and address any signs of periodontal disease before it causes extensive and expensive health problems in the future.

What about Anesthesia-free Dental Cleanings?


Anesthesia-free dental cleanings do not provide any benefit to your pet’s oral and overall health, as it does not properly remove the plaque-causing bacteria that live beneath the gum-line. The only purpose this non-veterinary procedure serves is to make the teeth look white and temporarily get rid of “doggy breath”.

Remember, Happy Pets = Happy People.