Periodontal disease is just that, a disease. Once you understand that it is a disease just like hyperthyroidism, arthritis or heart disease, you will begin to understand why it is so important to treat. Gingivitis is defined as reversible inflammation of the tissues surrounding the tooth crown or normal exposed tooth surface. Most cats and dogs develop gingivitis by two years of age.
Periodontal disease is an irreversible condition that results in gum recession, tooth root exposure, loss of surrounding bone, loosening of the tooth, and eventual tooth loss. If untreated, most pets will develop periodontal disease by age three to five. Pain develops as the gum recedes, exposing underlying sensitive tissues, and as the tooth becomes loose. Once tartar and plaque become established on the tooth surface, it begins to harden and mineralize. This is called calculus and is often found on the upper third and fourth premolars of dogs and cats.
The bacteria that cause periodontal disease also cause problems throughout the body. As the number of pathogenic bacteria increase in the mouth, they are absorbed through the inflamed gums into the bloodstream and enter the intestinal tract through swallowing. These bacteria contribute to the development or urinary tract infections, kidney infections, diminished immune system and heart valve infections (endocardiosis and endocarditis).