One of the most common concerns in general practice is periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is progressive and painful, affecting a pet’s overall well-being. For that reason, it is so important to talk about pet dental care at home and in the clinic. When speaking with owners, I start my dental consult by explaining the stages of periodontal disease and the stage their pet is in at that time.
The stages include:
Grade 0: No plaque or gingivitis present
Grade 1: Mild gingivitis and plaque are present, which can be reversible with appropriate dental home care
Grade 2: Mild to moderate tartar and gingivitis
Grade 3: Heavy tartar and possible bone loss present with or without fractures
Grade 4: Severe tartar, oral pain are present and tooth loss
Next, I try to remind my clients that tartar and plaques can be prevented with at-home care. I discuss some of my favorite dental products, such as dental chews, water additives, and teeth brushings/toothpaste. I also email or print them a copy of the products approved by the VOHC (Veterinary Oral Health Council) for both dogs and cats.
It’s important to explain the dental cleaning procedure and what to expect after the procedure is finished. Every patient is different and not all the time is a dental cleaning with full mouth extraction. However, many times, I see dogs—who are less than 6 years old—with severe periodontal disease. In those cases, I like to discuss the complications of not treating a severe periodontal disease with examples such as tooth root abscess, oronasal fistula, stomatitis, and oral ulceration, endocarditis, and more.
For cases with Grades 2-4 periodontal disease, I always recommend a dental cleaning under anesthesia and pre-operative bloodwork to evaluate the function of the internal organs. After performing a dental cleaning with or without extractions, I recommend continued dental care to maintain good oral health. This can include tooth brushing, dental chews, oral rinses, or soft food if very few teeth are left.