Dental Disease and Its Relation to Systemic Disease in Pets

What is dental disease?

Dental disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a condition in which the tissues supporting the teeth become inflamed. In its most mild form, periodontal disease is associated with gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums. In more severe cases, periodontal disease may manifest as tooth root abscesses, bone infection of the jaw, or as a pathologic (disease-induced) fracture of the jaw.

Can dental disease cause systemic disease?

When a pet develops dental disease, significant quantities of bacteria reside within the mouth and the oral tissues. These bacteria can enter the bloodstream and travel to other areas within the body, causing distant or systemic effects. There are three organs that are especially susceptible to the spread of oral bacteria: the heart, the liver, and the kidneys.

"There are three organs that are especially susceptible to the spread of oral bacteria: the heart, the liver, and the kidneys."

The bacteria that are found within the mouth of pets with dental disease are the same bacteria that are often implicated in heart disease. These bacteria are associated with both endocarditis (inflammation/infection of the interior of the heart) and valvular disease in dogs and cats. Additionally, the presence of periodontal disease has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease in dogs.  

The liver and kidneys are especially susceptible to the effects of dental disease. Both organs function primarily to filter the blood, which allows bacteria from the oral cavity to easily spread to each of these organs. Infection and inflammation within the liver and kidneys can cause signs of systemic infection (such as fever, weight loss, and decreased appetite), while also interfering with the function of these organs.

 

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