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The Stages of Dental Disease in Companion Animals

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According to the American Veterinary Dental College, periodontal disease in dogs and cats ranges from healthy normal (periodontal disease 0), to periodontal disease stage 4.  Rivertown Animal Hospital encourages all pet parents to learn about these stages. The goal is for your pet to be at healthy normal, which means your pet does not display any significant signs of periodontal disease; the gums are flat and a healthy pink color with no inflammation.

Some teeth may show signs of developing tartar build-up without gingivitis.  The best treatment is to brush your pet’s teeth at home each day and bring your pet to our clinic twice a year for a dental evaluation and possible general cleaning.

Stage 1 to 4 of Veterinary Periodontal Disease

When your pet is at Stage 1, tartar build-up has increased and there is the appearance of slightly red swollen gums. At this stage your pet does not have bone loss.  Brushing your pet’s teeth at this stage may cause pain.  Treatment and prevention remains the same as it did for healthy normal.  Teeth should be cleaned at this stage to prevent the progression to Stage 2.

By Stage 2, a companion animal has significant gum swelling and the crowns of some teeth appear worn down.  Pets at this stage may have bone loss of up to 25 percent.  Dogs and cats at this stage should have an immediate professional cleaning performed under general anesthesia.  It is still possible to prevent further bone loss at this point.

Pets who reach Stage 3 of periodontal disease have serious bone loss.  It is not always possible to see this by looking at the teeth and gums because up to 70 percent of your pet’s teeth lie below the gum line.  At this stage full mouth dental x-rays will confirm bone loss.  Treatment options may include extraction of one or more teeth, or intensive treatment by a veterinary dental specialist.  It is sometimes possible to save a pet’s tooth at Stage 3 if the owner is firmly committed to daily oral healthcare at home.

At Stage 4, tooth extraction is the only option to remove painful, diseased teeth and restore a healthy mouth.  It is better to prevent periodontal disease than to treat it later.  Please contact us if you have questions about your pet’s oral health or would like to schedule an evaluation and/or cleaning.