Paul Cleland, DVM, MBA, Diplomate ABVP & AVDC

Saturday, January 17 • 1:45- 2:35, Marriott

Inadequate dental care enables bacterial plaque to cause gingival inflammation, also known as gingivitis. The damage ultimately allows bacteria to gain access to the connective tissues of the mouth. Ongoing inflammation of untreated gingivitis results in gingival fibrosis. In susceptible animals, this inflammation can progress to involve the alveolar bone and the periodontal ligament. Ultimately, the tooth's attachment to the alveolar bone is lost, a disease known as "periodontitis." However, with consistent human intervention, gingivitis and periodontitis can be avoided. The mainstay for preventing periodontal disease is mechanical removal of plaque. A professional cleaning can reverse gingivitis and stop the progression of periodontitis. Extraction of severely diseased or crowded teeth as well as polishing tooth surfaces will also improve long-term results. The most effective method of at-home plaque control is daily brushing. (Unfortunately, compliance is quite low-fewer than 5% of pet owners continue to brush their pets' teeth after 1 year.) Designated pet foods and/or treats also provide a means of mechanical plaque and calculus control. For dogs and cats in which mechanical plaque removal does not control periodontal disease, chemical adjuncts, such as chlorhexidine, antibiotics, and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplements, may be beneficial.

COMMENTARY: Because diseases affecting the oral cavity are common in dogs and cats, dentistry will play an increasingly important role in veterinary practice. Oral disease can also result in systemic complications. Orally initiated bacteremia may infect other organs, such as the heart, lungs, and kidneys. However, with good professional care (which should consist of a complete physical examination along with extraoral and intraoral examinations) and consistent at-home follow-up, oral diseases and complications should not occur. Intrigued by the title? In human medicine the mouth is referred to as the
forgotten 3 inches; the author added a couple for our milieu!