Gingivitis is a dental condition which is described as an inflammation (swelling) of the gums (gingiva). This causes mild to moderate reddening of the gum lining leading to occasional pain, discomfort, loss of appetite and blood loss (rare). It is the early stage for a more chronic condition known as Periodontal disease (periodontitis).
Healthy gums are fitted tightly around the teeth. Over eating, scavenging, eating raw, uncooked meat, lesions and scarring of the gums can lead to formation and buildup of plaque between the teeth and gums. Plaque is a colorless soft material and cannot be seen with the naked eye. It is made up of food particles, bacteria, organic and inorganic materials. Once plaque starts forming, it forces the gums away from the teeth, creating gaps for additional formation. This deposit hardens into Calculus (also known as tartar).
Tartar is yellowish brown (often described as stains), made up of a mixture of calcium phosphate and carbonate along with organic material.
Overtime, calculus starts building up on irregular surfaces of the teeth. It could take years for this formation. Calculus deposits leads to Gingivitis.
Gingivitis is often seen in middle aged adults and senior dogs (over 4 years of age).
Breeds known to be affected by this dental condition include:
› Brazilian Terrier
› Catalan Sheepdog
› Continental Toy Spaniel
› Danish Swedish Farmdog
› Labrador Retriever
› Russian Toy
› Wirehaired Pointing Griffon.
The primary cause of gingivitis is Plaque formation on the teeth. Factors which can contribute are:
› Poor dental hygiene
› Poor nutritional diet
› Diabetes mellitus
› Eating habits (over eating, scavenging)
› Presence of deciduous teeth (baby teeth)
› Tooth loss
› Scarring of the gums
› Age of the cat
› Environmental stress
Clinical Signs & Symptoms
Symptoms depends on the age of the dog. Common signs to watch for are:
› Anorexia (Loss of Appetite)
› weight Loss
› Halitosis (Bad Breath)
› Receding gum-line
› Inflammation of the gums
› Bleeding from the gums
› Plaque deposits
› Calculus deposits
› Ptyalism (Hyper-salivation or Drooling)
Veterinarians will require a complete history of your dog which includes medical history, vaccination records, existing health concerns, current and previous medications, onset of symptoms, diet and exercise routine and any information which can help in establishing a correct diagnosis. Diagnosis is done with a combination of tests. These include routine lab examinations and special tests which can detect the presence of the parasite. They are:
› Physical examination – A dental examination is performed to check for possible plaque and calculus build up, gum-pocket infection, existing or presence of deciduous teeth and rotten teeth.
Treatment aims at minimizing pain, reducing the plaque formation on the teeth, restricting the food to soft, moist or wet food (which involves very less chewing). Your veterinarian may also recommend changes in food habits, special diet plans (prescription foods) as one of the options.
› Regular cleaning of the teeth (using a special toothbrush and veterinary toothpaste, once or twice a week)
› Extraction of deciduous teeth (baby teeth) from adult cats
› Tooth scaling above and below the gum-line.
› Early brushing habit for kittens (they get used to it)
› Antibiotics, medications, antibacterial solutions etc.( to minimize plaque formation)
› Regular dental checks or examinations (every three or six months).
Regular brushing and cleaning of teeth, early teeth cleaning habits (start at puppy stage), periodic checkups and monitoring diet can prevent Gingivitis.
Treatment is an ongoing process. You have to administer and monitor all prescribed medicines as directed by your veterinarian. If you observe any behavioral changes or if the condition does not improve, please contact your veterinarian immediately.
› A well planned, nutritious diet (less protein) is necessary in such conditions. Routine and regular checkups to access the progress, weight checks, further tests may be advised.
› It is mandatory to provide a stress-free environment for your pet. Keep water and food bowls within reach, avoid exercise and physical activity, keep away from noise and any kind of commotion. Do not travel with pets.
› Untreated gingivitis can lead to periodontal disease which can lead to severe consequences, risk of bacterial & viral infections, digestive and respiratory disorders.