Periodontal disease is the #1 health issue plaguing dogs today. It’s estimated to affect more than 80% of adult dogs. Because periodontal disease is so prevalent, chances are your dog is affected too … even if he’s raw fed.
In today’s post, we’ll take a look at the unsuspected cause of this epidemic disease … and how new research says we might be treating it the wrong way.
What Is Dental Disease?
Once it appears, dental or periodontal disease is usually progressive and there are several stages of the disease.
Stage 1. Gingivitis
Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums (or gingiva) and is the earliest stage of periodontal disease. The pocket of the gum that surrounds the dog’s tooth contains a narrow space (called a sulcus) and plaque can begin to form there.
Plaque is a film made up of colonies of bacteria, along with special proteins from the saliva, sugars and immune cells. Bacteria are living creatures and some species can excrete by-products that can trigger an immune system response. These by-products damage the gums and will cause inflammation.
The main sign of gingivitis is a thin red line on the gums where they meet the teeth.
Stage 2. Tartar
As the bacterial populations produce more toxic by-products, inflammation will increase and start to damage the gum tissue. When this progresses, the sulcus around the tooth will become wider and deeper, allowing even more bacteria to live there.
Once the sulcus widens, plaque will move from the tooth down to the sulcus, below the gum surface. The bacteria in the plaque continues to produce by-products and trigger inflammation. This is the major driver of advanced periodontal disease.
Plaque begins to interact with minerals like calcium and phosphorus in your dog’s diet and when this happens, the film becomes hardened. This is called calculus or tartar. Like plaque, tartar will first accumulate on the teeth and then move below the gum surface as inflammation continues. The outer surface of tartar is hard and rough and plaque clings to the surface and quickly becomes mineralized, creating more tartar and more irritation to the gums or gingiva.
In this stage, you’ll see more inflammation and tartar. The gums will be red and irritated and there will likely be an odor to your dog’s breath.
Stage 3. Periodontal Disease
The accumulation of some bacteria in the plaque along the gums creates inflammation or gingivitis. If the bacteria colonies are allowed to grow, the severity of the gingivitis will increase and the bacterial colonies will continue to damage the gums. The immune response will invade the affected areas and release immune cells called cytokines, which will also damage the tissue. At this point, the bacterial toxins and cytokines can cause bone loss and there will be quite a bit of calculus around the teeth.
Once this stage is reached, the gums will bleed easily and pockets will form in the gums. There will also be obvious bad breath.
If left untreated, the gums will continue to recede from the inflammation, there will be more bone loss and the dog may have loose or missing teeth.
The longer your dog lives with dental disease, the greater the risk to his health … not just in his mouth, but in all his other organs. But before we get to that, let’s take a closer look at the bacteria in your dog’s mouth …