Questions you may have about your pet’s diagnosis provided by the American Veterinary Dental College.

Often we forget that animals are susceptible to the same kinds of diseases as humans, and in some cases even more so. This is the case with periodontal disease. In fact, periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition affecting adult pets, despite the fact that it is almost entirely preventable.

What Is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease is no different in pets than in humans; it is the destruction of bone, gum, tissue, and structures that hold teeth in place. Periodontal disease is caused by bacterial infection that spreads unseen beneath the gum-line. As the disease progresses, it destroys the bone around the tooth roots leading to mobile, painful teeth. Dogs and cats with advanced periodontal disease often require oral surgery to extract many teeth.

How do I know if my pet has periodontal disease?

The truth is that you don’t. Unfortunately, by the time there are obvious indications of periodontal disease, such as bad breath and loose teeth, there is already significant damage. Periodontal disease begins and exists under the gum-line where it is not visible. White teeth do not mean that your pet is free from disease. The only way to prevent or identify periodontal disease early is through routine veterinary dental cleanings under anesthesia. At that time, your pet’s mouth is thoroughly evaluated, cleaned, and all teeth are radiographed to identify bone loss, periodontal pockets, and other diseases involving the tooth root and surrounding bone.

How can I prevent periodontal disease?

There are two key components to preventing periodontal disease in your pet: home dental care and annual veterinary dental care. Daily brushing remains the gold standard to prevent plaque and calculus and slow the progression of periodontal disease. In addition, there are diets, treats, chews, and water additives that can be used to assist in preventative oral healthcare.

An annual veterinary dental cleaning is important to your pet’s oral health care routine. Dental procedures under general anesthesia allow your veterinarian to visually examine each tooth and use a dental probe around each tooth, in addition to obtaining radiographs to evaluate the tooth structure that cannot be seen with the naked eye. When you do this regularly, your pet’s mouth is evaluated thoroughly, cleaned, and any bacteria or beginnings of periodontal disease can be addressed immediately before it causes extensive and expensive damage. Your pet will thank you with a clean and healthy mouth!


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Key Terms:
Plaque- A sticky film that coats teeth and contains bacteria.
Dental Calculus- (also called tartar) when plaque is left on the tooth, it calcifies leaving a barrier on the tooth that invades the gum-line causing gingival recession and other dental diseases.
Periodontal disease stages: Stages are graded 1-4. We have provided a link below to help give you visual aide in what the differences are. Click Here!

Summary of some of the signs that may indicate periodontal disease

  • Bad breath
  • Flinching or pulling away from you when you try to look at the teeth
  • The lips of your pet may quiver
  • Dogs may growl and snap and cats may hiss because they are in pain
  • Red, swollen gums
  • Tartar build up
  • You can see the bulge of the crown which is usually hidden from view
  • You can see the roots of the teeth which are always covered by bone and gums
  • Open wounds on the face under the eye, on the lower jaws, in the mouth
  • Ulcers in the mouth or lips
  • Rubbing the face on carpets and furniture
  • Sleeping a lot, decreased activity, poor appetite, dropping food and hard treats


  • Bone and the roots of the teeth SHOULD be covered by the gums.
  • If you cannot see the roots or bone, your vet cannot either so X-rays are needed to see what sort of condition the bone support around each tooth is in.
  • Bone loss cannot be seen without intraoral X-rays. The stage of periodontal disease is based on the amount of bone loss present.
  • As members of your family, we want to give __ the best health care possible.

Please call 310-376-6056 and ask for Beverly or Kaitlyn to schedule your pet’s dental today.


Before Dental Cleaning


After Cleaning