Over 66 percent of dogs and cats aged two and older show symptoms of periodontal disease and this number increases with the age of the affected animals. Despite the existence of numerous ideas and methods of treating periodontal disease, dental plaque control still remains the most critical means of prevention and therapy.


The goal of the most common dental procedure in veterinary practice, i.e. sanitation of the oral cavity, is to achieve the best possible conditions for the control of bacterial plaque build-up.

Bacterial plaque has been found to be the main contributing factor to periodontal diseases. In itself, the tartar visible on the teeth, is not a disease but only a sign of lack of hygiene and the final mineralisation of dental plaque build-up. The presence of tartar contributes to dental plaque build-up and may cause mucous ulcerations resulting from mechanical irritation.

How tartar develops?

Salivary glycoproteins start to accumulate on the teeth’s surface within a few hours following a correctly performed preventive procedure. Pellicle, or a thin layer of these glycoproteins, becomes rapidly colonised (over a few subsequent hours) by bacteria residing in the oral cavity. Thus, dental bacterial plaque may become deposited on the surface of the recently cleaned teeth even as early as on the next day after the procedure. The bacteria colonising the pellicle are accompanied by food remains, exfoliated epithelial cells of the oral cavity and microbes.

At the initial stage, the so-called ‘immature’ dental plaque forms a thin dental deposit. When left on the surface of the teeth, such form of dental plaque continues to adhere even stronger to the tooth enamel and it gains a more organised structure, growing into a kind of a colony of bacteria and protozoa – thus turning into a biofilm. The surface of this biofilm is colonised by aerobic bacteria, while the deeper layers which are closer to the tooth surface, become inhabited by anaerobic bacteria.

Matrix, which constitutes 75 percent of the mature plaque, starts to play an increasingly important role in maturing bacterial plaque. Matrix is a substance which consists of secretions and metabolism by-products of dental plaque microbes. It facilitates the plaque build-up and protects it from chemical and cellular bactericidal substances.

Once a mature plaque has been formed (this stage lasts up to several hours), and over the period of the following two days of a non-disturbed existence, the biofilm becomes slowly mineralised and tartar develops. This formation itself is not pathogenic; however, it creates conditions which contribute to colonisation by pathogens, inducing periodontal disease. These pathogens secret toxins which cause inflammation of the gum tissue (gingivitis).When left untreated, gingivitis progresses into an irreversible form of periodontal inflammation (periodontitis) which is characterised by permanent damage of the periodontal ligament system and atrophy of the alveolar process, gums and cementum.

Prevention of periodontal diseases

A conclusion arising there from is that in order to prevent periodontal diseases, formation and mineralisation of the mature dental plaque must be counteracted. Besides, if no hygienic recommendations helping to control a dental plaque deposition are given after a preventive procedure or a pet parent does not comply with them, the first symptoms of deteriorating periodontal conditions can be spotted right during the follow-up visit.

Numerous studies have shown that everyday brushing is the most effective way of periodontal disease prevention. Apart from brushing, a dry diet and in particular the many dental diets, play a crucial preventative role as well.

The study results

The studies on compliance with recommendations for oral hygiene conducted in the USA have shown that 24 percent of pet parents still brush the teeth of their pets every day over the period of 6 months following the procedure, with the additional 29 percent of them performing this practice a few times a week.

The most distinct research trends which have recently arisen in the periodontology are associated with the effective prevention of periodontal diseases and their contribution to general health. A formulation containing Ascophyllum Nodosum – a seaweed extract – is one of the preventive formulas which trigger a great interest as a method of passive oral hygiene. This product has been shown to yield positive effects in the oral hygiene of humans as well as in veterinary dentistry.

Pet parents would most often wish for the pet dental hygiene issue to be solved in a simple, cost-effective and effortless way. New means and methods which could potentially boost the effectiveness of a periodontal disease prevention continue to be sought after.

(Contributed by Swedencare AG)

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