Periodontal Disease: The Biggest Danger to Your Pet’s mouth


Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, affects more than 80% of pet cats and dogs. This makes it the most common disease to affect our pets. Periodontal disease is caused by plaque bacteria that build up on the teeth and can form hardened deposits called calculus or tartar. The plaque bacteria cause inflammation of the tissues that keep the tooth in its socket. Inflammation of the soft tissues (the gums) alone is called gingivitis. Gingivitis is a reversible condition if we can keep plaque off the teeth. If we don’t, it can progress to periodontitis. Periodontitis means that the inflammation has progressed to involve the bone that supports the tooth in its socket. Periodontitis is irreversible, though we can perform treatments to keep it from progressing.

The first step in diagnosing and treating periodontal disease is to perform a complete oral examination and take diagnostic dental radiographs (X-rays). At Sacramento Veterinary Dental Services, our Complete Oral Health Assessment and Treatment (COHAT) occurs under general anesthesia.

After we have performed the complete oral examination and taken dental radiographs, we can fully diagnose and formulate a treatment plan for your pet. Almost every pet we see has some level of periodontal disease. There are four stages of periodontal disease, and all four stages can be present in the same mouth. For more detailed information about periodontal disease please read our handout on periodontal disease in dogs and cats.

While your pet is under our care, we will make sure to look in every part of their mouth, under the tongue, and all the hard-to-reach and hard-to-see spots to maximize the benefits of anesthetizing your pet. One problem that is related to periodontal health is gingival overgrowth or gingival enlargement. This is also known as gingival hyperplasia and is a condition where the gum tissues surrounding the tooth multiply and can form pockets next to the tooth, predisposing them to periodontal disease. Read more about the diagnosis and treatment of gingival overgrowth in our handout.