Periodontitis is a follow-up of Gingivitis, describing the condition where Gingivitis has progressed to receding gum tissue, creating pockets of no tissue around the base of the teeth. This gum disease may, and typically will, over time also lead to Caries (tooth decay).
Trigger of Dental Disease, or more precisely would be Gum Disease, is an overgrowth of bacteria in the plaque layer that is formed on the teeth when the bacteria naturally occuring in the mouth feed on carbohydrates. In particular on sugars; less so on starches, and even less on fibers - all of which are carbohydrates.
Thus the cause of Dental Disease and Gum Disease is a poor diet rich in sugars: Sucrose, Fructose, Galactose, Lactose, Maltose, Glucose/Dextrose, Corn Syrup.
Poor oral hygiene will aggravate and accelerate the disease, but is no more than a trigger because a diet that contains no carbohydrates at all would not result in these types of Dental Disease and Gum Disease even if you never brushed the teeth.
Periodontitis is the single most common type of Gum Disease in dogs. It is a progressive disease because it spreads with the bacteria all around the mouth tissue, over time even leading to the loss of teeth.
In fact, ultimately Gum Disease can trigger further ailments down the digestive system because the overgrowth of bacteria is ingested with food and water on a daily basis.
Who Suffers Dental Disease or Gum Inflammation
Affected are dogs (and people) that eat much sweetened foods (or outright sweets) yet don't compensate for this with immediate tooth-brushing.
Note that industrial pet "food" is both sweetened and salted to extend shelf life. Even where the label of a bag or tin suggests it doesn't contain much carbohydrates (because starchy foods have been left out, which is rare: carbohydrates are cheapest), sugars and salts are added to the product content (but hidden from the label) to make the bag or tin last longer. You could say, to prevent that the waste goes to waste.
The same (sweetening and salting to extend shelf life) is with human-grade tin food, as I am currently reminded every day since there is no way to cook yet in our tiny house truck: The only tins I can find here (of foods that I like to eat myself, thus can share with the dog) that have next to no added sugar and salt are ... peas and champignons! Every other tin contains 1% to 2% salt, in addition to sugar, which is way too much.
Peas and champignons. Not a great variety at the moment, I can tell you. Miguel can't "stand" peas anymore. Yet amazing site member Mark sent us a solar cooking tube, thus soon I should be able to cook again and provide variety, yeah!
As we are at the topic, here's where human-grade tin food differs from pet-grade tin food:
Thanks to enforced laws concerning human-grade foods, our foods are actively sought to be free of toxins. Conversely, thanks to no enforcement for animal-grade foods, pet "food" is actively sought to be full of toxins: the incineration processing is known to create new toxins in addition to those in the waste that enters the incinerator.
At least, those toxins don't contribute to Dental Disease and Gum Inflammation.
The "kibble clean" myth
By the way, it is a myth that when you feed "dry food" (kibble) it would promote oral health. But kibble does promote mouth cancer and a slew of other disorders, that is true, because industrial kibble is toxic and some of those toxins are carcinogenic, the others are allergenic.
The reason for it being a myth is, there is a big difference between shiny teeth and oral health:
Kibble often makes shiny teeth because dogs do not swallow kibble in whole, and the grinding motion of a hard dry mass over teeth removes the dark-yellow to brown colored plaque and tartar, common sense. So the teeth seem cleaner when you feed kibble. This explains the myth.
But the grinding motion of a hard dry mass over teeth also removes the protective bacterial layer and inflames the gumline. And this is exactly why dogs confined to "dry food" (kibble) so often experience mouth infections and early decay. The other reason is the toxins that kibble contains weaken the immune system to fight those infections.
Like for like, dogs that get homemade food ("table scraps") do not have the shiny teeth of kibble dogs, but much better oral health.
Not to forget: Inadequate toothbrushing (too harsh) causes lesions at the gumline which too result in Gum Disease and Dental Disease. Hence why I now link oral hygiene for dogs for a second time.
- bad breath
- gum recession
- digestive disorders
- poor appetite due to pain
- ulcers in the mouth
- bleeding gums
- tooth loss
- tooth extrusion
- temperature sensitivity (eg of drinking water)
- feeding any kind of sweetened or very starchy foods or even industrial pet "food".
Preventing Dental Disease and Gum Inflammation
Obviously there's no way to eat or feed the dog a zero-carbohydrate diet. Nonetheless, we all should, and I personally try to, limit carbohydrate intake, both for myself and for the dog.
It is wrong that carbohydrates are the main energy source for a healthy human and canine organism, fats are. The decades-long teachings that "fats make fat" is known to be nonsense, carbohydrates make fat - and sick! Because carbohydrates cause inflammation in the cardiovascular system. More on this in a more related topic.
Also, aim to leave out anything sweetened and/or salted, and I mean regardless whether you feed industrial pet "food" or human-grade REAL food, whether from the pot, pan, or steamer, or from tins or a large bag.
In addition, aim to brush the dog's teeth say twice-weekly or even only weekly (regardless that I am currently not doing that myself). "Do as I say, not as I do". Yeah, right.
Important is doing the toothbrushing the right way, using a canine toothpaste and gentle downward movements, not across so as not to hurt the gumline. The same by the way is true for brushing our own teeth: all the TV ads for brushes or paste are very misleading, wrong.
The systematic downward movements are the reason why brushing the teeth is far better than providing say a towel to chew on, or the teeth-cleaning fresh 'n floss tug rope, or whatever.
While the plastic brush is usable on any finger (for me the smallest) and does somewhat protect the finger from the sharp dog teeth, the microfiber brush allows for preciser and thus quicker cleaning movements, and Miguel doesn't resist cleaning as much as he did with the plastic brush!
Thanks to documenting it I remember well when he was a puppy I thought I was more protected from his erratic puppy behavior when initially I used a toothbrush with a long handle. But retrospectively I'd say that's worse than using the microfiber brush because the plastic brush motivated him to bite on the handle all the time! Like the plastic dental finger then motivated him to bite on it too, with my smallest finger being right in it.
In case you are interested, Puppy Care and Puppy Health is of course covered in the multimedia and live New Puppy Diary as well. Everything is covered.
Some dog owners who don't like to brush their dog's teeth instead add Plaque Off to their dog's food, which is quite effective but inferior to toothbrushing.
If you wish to do that too, I'd advise don't add Plaque Off more than every other day or every third day, and to the latest meal of the day so that it can work overnight as much as possible, but not wear away the teeth's protective layer day after day (because that's how all these remedies work).
Another means to prevent Dental Disease and Gum Inflammation is to have your dog's teeth checked when you visit the vet, thus ideally every 6 to 12 months. If the vet then feels that your dog requires toothbrushing, and you don't mind the extra cost(?), let the vet do it right there, this keeps you out of trouble if your dog doesn't like it.
Note that if you look after your dog's teeth reasonably well then you will likely hear from your vet "Teeth and gums are in good condition", and the vet won't charge you anything for dental treatment anyway. That's how it has been for me everytime.
Conversely, if you don't look after your dog's teeth at all then you may be lucky to avoid related vet bills and just not get that compliment from the vet. Or, you may be unlucky and your dog later requires very costly dental treatment.
Treating Dental Disease and Gum Inflammation
For dental treatment beyond toothbrushing, the average vet will give your dog general anaesthetics, because not many vets dare to work on a sedated dog's mouth. While this helps to reduce the dog's stress level during treatment, general anaesthetics are taxing on the dog's health and should be avoided whenever possible.
To treat an early Dental Disease or Gum Inflammation yourself, you can spray Petzlife Oral Care once around the upper teeth and once around the lower teeth - both in the evening before sleeping, when your dog is most unlikely to drink. But do provide water 24/7: when dogs feel dry they need to be able to take a sip or two like we do. This canine oral care remedy will mix with your dog's saliva and improve oral health (and also promote fresh breath).
The big advantage over the typical (cheaper) antiseptic mouth wash is that this dog oral care spray is alcohol-free and presumably does not destroy the oral flora.
You may not know but the typical mouth wash that many men like to take destroys not only harmful bacteria but the oral flora too. Which is why those men then have to take the mouth wash indefinitely, or their bad breath is soon unbearable. Exactly! Don't tell me that's not on purpose.
Because in people, bad breath is the result of an oral flora that has been destroyed:
- either by bacteria
- or by stomach acids too frequently finding their way to the mouth because of a Digestive Disorder
- or - most commonly - by mouth wash, indeed!
In dogs, bad breath is the result of an oral flora that has been destroyed:
- either by bacteria
- or by feeding industrial dog "food" (just remind yourself of the stench when you open a kibble bag)
- or by stomach acids too frequently finding their way to the mouth because of a Digestive Disorder.
Therefore, better give your human family members an alcohol-free, natural mouth wash (with the added benefit to cleanse and heal smaller oral lesions too), and if you insist you could give your canine family members Petzlife Oral Care.
But do not give it with every meal as the producer suggests (obviously). Twice weekly or every other day (max) should be okay.
Serious cases of Dental Disease or Gum Inflammation the vet will treat with more antiseptics and a series of costly dental procedures such as ultrasonic scaling, root planning and pocketing in the teeth to remove the affected areas.
Actually diagnosing a Dental Disease or Gum Inflammation starts with a complete mouth inspection by the vet. Remember, mouth inspection is part of the consultation of a quality vet, and so with Miguel we do this too.
Unfortunately, since 70% of a dog's teeth are below the gumline, an X-ray cannot always be avoided IF the vet must see what is happening below the gumline (because of some visible complication above the gumline). But this is very rare if all is healthy above the gumline - which can easily be seen with the naked eye.
To avoid such serious cases (and the related vet bills!), if you don't like to clean your dog's teeth regularly you could try the top oral health spray. It is quite expensive though. On the other hand, as always, that's relative: Veterinarian dental treatment costs much more.
Important: Be aware that, unfortunately the average ordinary vet will often try to prescribe antibiotics to treat Dental Disease or Gum Inflammation. Again, this is the worst one can do! Do not accept that, do not pay for that. The antibiotics will not be helpful but the antibiotics will make your dog sick, in ways neither the average allopathic vet nor you immediately recognizes.
All that's really needed is to remove the site of infection and/or to remove the cause of the Dental Disease or Gum Inflammation. Therefore the first step is to remove all sweetened dog "food" and "treats" from the diet, ideally feed natural homemade foods only, then you know exactly what your dog is getting, and it's great food, REAL food.
Some natural foods help particularly well with Dental Disease and Gum Inflammation, foremost foods that inhibit the spread of bacteria that feed on sugars (such as glucose and fructose) or on starches (such as oats, wheat, potatoes, corn, peas etc).
Such "bad bacteria" inhibiting foods are for example:
- real meat, ie meat like you would eat yourself, not the crap that is sold as "meat" in dry "food" bags and tins
- fermented foods, incl. fermented dairies like kefir
- cheese, incl. cottage cheese
- lots of fresh water, no fruit water etc
- leefy greens like spinach, broccoli, kale and other cabbage
- fish, like sardines, tuna, etc
None of these foods bear a risk, forget the gossip. For example, what is bad for dogs (and for people too!) is to eat unripe tomatoes, or many.
Considering the much lower dog weight, Miguel sometimes gets one or two cherry tomatoes among the lots of other foods I have to squeeze in his bowl. And, he's still alive. No surprise.
Also no surprise, this food list matches the natural food diet that mygermanshepherd.org has promoted ever since. Because it works. It keeps dogs healthy and strong, and as close to nature as possible in our times.