Forest’s owner had not long rescued him from a rehoming centre but had already noticed that his breath was quite smelly and unpleasant. So it wasn’t a surprise when we recommended that Forest needed some dental work.
Strangely, Forest’s mouth was a combination of really bad teeth together with surprisingly good, healthy teeth. The bad teeth had periodontal disease (periodontitis). This means that an infection has spread down the gap between the tooth root and the bone the root sits in (the periodontal space). This space is usually filled by the ligaments that hold the tooth root in position. However, when bacterial infection gets into this ligament space, the ligaments break and as the infection spreads the bone and then the overlying gum dies back. This leaves the tooth root supported by less than the normal amount of bone, and sometimes not supported by any bone at all, as shown in Forest’s x-ray below.
Periodontal disease is by far the most common form of dental disease we see in dogs. It starts with an accumulation of tartar (mineralised plaque) on the tooth which traps bacteria against the gum and the top of the periodontal space, and the disease progresses from there. Whilst dirty teeth can be cleaned and polished, unfortunately the loss of bone and gum from periodontal disease is irreversible, and results in the extraction of affected teeth.
As we are all aware from our own tooth-cleaning regimes, prevention is key to healthy teeth, and preventing tartar accumulation in the first place will prevent periodontitis and tooth loss further down the line. Tooth brushing – for us and our pets – is by far the most effective way of keeping teeth clean and gums healthy.
Forest had 16 teeth removed in all (don’t worry, he started with 42!). Now he has a lovely healthy mouth with clean teeth – and fresh breath again!