Dogs and cats dental health

Periodontal disease and inflammation of the gingivae are common disorders in dogs and cats. Gingivitis is caused by the formation and persistence of dental plaque on the surface of the teeth. If untreated, this can progress to periodontal disease, which affects the gingivae, periodontal ligament, cementum, and alveolar bone. Periodontal disease is associated with oral pain, malodorous breath, ulceration, and the loss of alveolar bone and teeth. The bacteremia that often accompanies periodontis may also lead to damage of other organs in the body. Although a direct causal relationship has not been proven, periodontal disease has been implicated as contributing to diseases involving the kidneys, cardiovascular system, lungs, and immune system. Because periodontal disease is a common and serious disorder in dogs and cats, recent studies have focused on nutrition and diet as risk factors for its development and as potential means for reducing gingivitis and preventing its progression to periodontal disease.

The types of dental health problems that occur in dogs and cats differ somewhat from those typically seen in humans. Because of the sharp inclined planes of their dentition, dogs and cats are not susceptible to the formation of tooth caries (i.e., cavities). In dogs, demineralization of teeth is not common because of the alkaline nature of their saliva. Cats, in comparison, can produce saliva with a more acidic pH, making tooth demineralization possible in this species. Overall, the three primary dental problems that are seen in dogs and cats are oral malodor, gingivitis, and periodontal disease. Odotonclastic resorptive lesions in cats also have been associated with gingival inflammation and, possibly, periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease is one of the most common disease observed by small animal practitioners, and it is the most prevalent type of oral disorder.

It has been reported in domestic pets for at least 70 years and is currently considered a worldwide problem. For example, gingival inflammation and heavy calculus deposits were found in 95% of research colony dogs, 2 years old or older, in a study conducted more than 30 years ago. Another early study reported moderate to severe periodontal disease in 75% of necropsied dogs that were between 4 and 8 years of age. More recently, a study of 63 dogs aged 1 year or older reported that almost all of them had gingivitis, and 53% had evidence of periodontis.

Periodontal disease in dogs is strongly associated with increasing age and appears to be most prevalent in small and toy breeds. It is thought that the drastically reduced jaw size and crowding of teeth of small dogs may be predisposing factors. The progressive nature of periodontal disease and the likelihood that supragingival changes may go unnoticed by owners until there is significant damage to the periodontium explain the increased incidence in older animals.

Although there are relatively little epidemiological data relating to cats, it is speculated that the incidence of gingivitis and periodontal disease is similar in cats and dogs. A study conducted with cats in England found evidence of periodontal disease in 60% of cats older than 3 years. Odontoclastic resorptive lesions are also a commonly diagnosed dental disorder in cats. A recent study of 145 adult cats found evidence of these lesions in 48% of the animals studied. Other groups have found incidence values between 23% and 67%.

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