What is dental disease?

What should my pet’s mouth look like?

It is important for you to know what is normal before you can see the abnormal.  Once you know what your pet’s mouth should look like, and you realize how a poor dental health affects your pet’s health, it will be natural for you to want to do something to prevent this insidious disease.

Unless your pet has just eaten something stinky, you should not fall over backwards after smelling your pet’s breath, so this is the first thing you should do.  Take a wiff!!! Then gently lift his/her lip on both sides and examine the teeth and gums.  Do they look like these normal pictures?



If not read on and determine what stage of dental disease your pet has.

What is dental disease?

There are four established stages of dental disease in pets.  It is important to realize that one stage automatically leads to the other unlessyou or your vet do something about it.  As you will be able to deduce from the pictures, the more advanced the disease, the more painful and also the more it will cost to take care of it. In the early stages, oral surgery and extractions will be highly unlikely. In the more advanced stages, however, it will be unavoidable unfortunately.

You now know what a healthy mouth looks like so now let’s look at a Stage I early disease. Can you see the difference?

Early gingivitis – Stage 1


The gum line is inflamed and looks puffy and pink.  This is because the pocket between the gingiva and the tooth surface (subgingival pocket) is now filled with tartar which is the hard material which builds up on the teeth after the plaque solidifies.  Marginal_stageI_gingivitisPlaque will also be seen on the crown of the tooth and appear a light yellow/brown.  The products in the market that claim to be miraculous all they do is dissolve the visible tartar on the crown of the tooth.  None of these get into the subgingival pocket and it is very important for you to realize that this is where the problem lies. It is worth repeating that the ugly build up on the crown is NOT what causes disease.  It is the infection starting under the gum and progressing into the deeper tissues that we worry about.

Advanced gingivitis – Stage 2

There is now significant tartar build up filling up the subgingival pocket and the gum looks swollen and bright pink or purple.

Stage_II_gingivitis_cat         Stage_III_perio_cat

Early periodontal disease – Stage 3

At this stage the infection has invaded the periodontal ligament which is the ligament that fixes the tooth to the bone in the alveolar socket. The bone around the neck of the crown starts to erode as the bacteria invades this area.  At this stage in animals as in people, deep cleaning and sometimes gum surgery can still turn the disease around and the tooth may be saved.  Of course, saving the tooth goes beyond the actual cleaning by your veterinarian as without home care the tooth is likely to be in the same condition in 3-6 months and the disease will continue to progress.


Look at this radiograph that shows a periodontal probe instrument going into a pocket in the gum.  The probe is going deeper into the gum that would normally be possible because the disease has caused some bone loss around the root.  Do you see it?


This second radiograph shows more severe bone loss in more advance diseaseprogressing_bone_loss_xray

Look at this radiograph that shows a periodontal probe instrument going into a pocket in the gum.  The probe is going deeper into the gum that would normally be possible because the disease has caused some bone loss around the root.  Do you see it?

Advanced periodontal disease – stage 4

Severe_perio350pixJPG   StageIV_disease_cat

Now, there is noone out there that can look at these two pictures and think for one moment that this is a healthy dog or cat and that there is no pain associated with a mouth that looks like that, right?

At this stage the supporting structures around the whole tooth are affected, the tooth is loose and in many cases there is foul odor and nasty grayish purulent material around the tooth.

This is indeed painful as well as detrimental to the overall organ health of the pet. If your pet’s mouth looks like that, please let us help!!! Contact us now and we will be happy to see your pet and give you a complete estimate to help them back to feeling much better. You won’t believe the difference in your pet’s attitude and activity level.

Now look at all the bone loss in this xray. These teeth are floating on the gums,are painful and nonfunctional. Surgical extraction will provide huge relief and drastically improve the quality of life in this pet.


This is a picture of a dog with a root abscess which has broken through the bone in the cheek bone causing a swelling under his eye. This often happens secondary to a fracture of the large molar cheek tooth in dogs that we call the 4th premolar, that allows bacteria from the mouth to penetrate the bone through the exposed pulp (root canal).


Many people ask, “After you extract all my dogs diseased teeth, how will my pet eat without any teeth?” Well, the truth of the matter is that painful, infected teeth like those above hurt a lot. So most animals have already found a way to avoid this pain by chewing with the other side or swallowing the food whole. The bottom line is that these teeth are not helping your pet eat and are indeed causing them a great deal of harm.  The sooner they come out, the better.

Our goal at The Family Pet hospital is to prevent all our patients from ever experiencing the pain that this severe disease can cause. With this goal in mind, we strongly advise all our pet owners to take care of their pet’s teeth and bring them in for regular less expensive cleanings.

Take some time to examine your pets mouth now.  You now know what is normal and what is not. Note the odor. A dogs or cats mouth does have some odor but it shouldn’t make you gag or wish you hadn’t taken such a big wiff!!!!! If it does, there is something wrong.

Then look at the teeth and the gums themselves.  How do they look? Ask yourself what it would feel like to have teeth like that? See we can’t ask our pets.  But it is ok to make assumptions for them.  The same way that if your pet is limping you make the assumption that his leg hurts, you make logical assumptions based on what you see.

Don’t wait until your pet acts sick or looks like the worst pictures above to decide that you will do something about his or her teeth. Act NOW! Check out our other post on how to start brushing his or her teeth and get a him/her a dental cleaning for Valentine’s day!

February is DENTAL MONTH, and all dental procedures are discounted so make your appointment to see us NOW! We will be glad to give your pet a FREE dental evaluation and provide you with a detailed care plan and estimate.


Happy Valentine’s day full of sweet kisses from your pets!!!

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