How Periodontal Disease is Diagnosed
The initial database for a dog presenting with symptoms suggesting periodontal disease includes a complete history, thorough physical examination, thorough examination of the teeth, gums and oral cavity, complete blood count, serum chemistry profile and urinalysis. These inquiries can provide valuable information about the dog’s internal organs and overall health and should be conducted before general anesthesia is induced to permit more advanced examination.
Once the dog is sedated or anesthetized, the veterinarian can examine the gums and teeth in much greater, and much less painful, detail. She can probe between the gum (gingiva) and tooth or tooth root to identify abnormal pockets and plaque accumulation. Gentle pressure against each tooth will reveal any looseness or possible complete detachment from the jaw. Dental radiographs (X-rays) can be taken to assess the health of all tooth structures and underlying bone; these are particularly important because most periodontal disease is hidden below the visible gum line.
Periodontal disease is largely preventable. Owners should discuss with their veterinarian routine in-home dental care regimens that are appropriate for their dog, starting when its permanent adult teeth have fully erupted. Good oral hygiene will not only prevent or greatly reduce the risk of periodontal disease, but it will also make the dog’s breath much more pleasant.