At Beechwood A.H. we spend a lot of time educating clients on the importance of good dental hygiene. The lack of care leads to a gradual progression of problems to the point that other body systems are also negatively affected. The progression goes something like this:
What’s the progression of Dental Disease?
1. Plaque and Tartar -plaque build up on the teeth calcifies to form tartar or calculus.
2. Feline Stomatitis – in the worst case situations seen only in cats, this can lead to a progressive, painful, hyperplastic stomatitis and gingivitis where most to all of the oral mucosa is inflamed. Extraction of all the teeth to prevent an apparent allergic hypersensitivity to plaque and calculus is recommended.
3. Gingivitis -fortunately this is uncommon to rare. Mostly the tartar builds up on the teeth until it starts pressing on the gum line causing gingivitis.
4. Periodontal Disease-the gingivitis progresses deeper to affect the periodontal ligaments that attach the tooth to the jaw bones. This is called Periodontal Disease. We have to try to prevent the dental abnormalities progressing this far, because at this point it is considered irreversible to the tooth/ teeth affected. Eventually the affected teeth will need extraction, but we can postpone it by thorough home care, gum surgery to open up dental pockets, antibiotics, and annual dental cleanings.
5. Resorptive Lesions-in cats they can develop resorptive lesions under areas of gingivitis, plaque and calculus. These are like cavities that eat away the crown of the tooth exposing sensitive nerve endings and are painful. The roots are last to be resorbed as because of this the process of extracting feline teeth with resorptive lesions (also called cervical line lesions) can be difficult due to strong/ intact periodontal ligaments. Cats get more resorptive lesions then periodontal disease generally, but they get both commonly.
6. Alveolar (tooth root) Abscess– as the teeth are affected by periodontal disease, gingivitis or they are damaged by fractures or chips due to eating hard objects or by trauma, the inside of the tooth is exposed and / or the tip of the tooth gets infected by bacteria leading to an abscess. This can be, and usually is, painful even though the animal may not be able to communicate that with us or it has been going on so long that time has made it sort of numb or painful only when pressed or chewed with.
7. Bone Resorption– the infection around a tooth and at the root tip (abscess) leads to the loss of bone around the tooth which is visual on a radiograph as a black area around the tooth where normal white bone used to be. This is sort of part of the dental abscess, but without the bone resorption the early dental abscess is hard to see. This is why dental specialists say that ‘all’ broken teeth with exposed inside channels have dental abscessation developing even though they may not be seen on dental radiographs.
8.Systemic spread of dental disease– often animals with advanced dental disease develop enlarged lymph nodes at the angle of the jaws (submandibular lymphadenopathy) due to their work at processing bacteria and inflammation in the mouth. Animals (dogs in particular) often breathe this oral bacteria into their airways leading to tracheobronchitis (a kennel cough like cough). This is very common in small breeds of dogs. Bacteria from the teeth enter the blood stream and can travel to remote sites causing abnormalities like valvular endocarditis in the heart, discospondylitis in the spine, liver abscesses, nephritis (kidney inflammation), synovitis in joints leading to arthritis, among others like middle ear disease, wherever the bacteria get lodged.
For additional information on Pet dental Health visit Veterinary Oral Health Council