Dental Corner: A foundation for treating canine periodontal disease - Veterinary Medicine
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Dental Corner: A foundation for treating canine periodontal disease



Daily tooth brushing is the best preventive measure you can recommend pet owners do at home. A daily tooth brushing is necessary because plaque bacteria can colonize on teeth 24 to 36 hours after scaling and polishing. In addition, several commercial diets significantly reduce plaque and tartar compared with regular dry food diets (Harvey C, Veterinary Oral Health Council, Philadelphia, Pa: Unpublished data). Specifically these foods are Iams Daily Dental Care (Iams), Prescription Diet Canine t/d (Hill's), Science Diet Oral Care (Hill's), Dental DD (Royal Canin), and Purina Dental Diet (Néstle Purina). With such a high prevalence of periodontal disease in dogs, there are few reasons not to provide a diet that promotes good oral health.


Rawhide treats for dogs are readily available to pet owners and are effective in the control and removal of plaque and tartar from dogs' teeth. Rawhide is highly digestible; in the numerous scientific studies documenting its effectiveness, it has not been observed to cause the digestive problems that conventional wisdom ascribes to it.5,6 It has also been shown that coating rawhide treats with calcium-sequestering substances such as sodium hexametaphosphate can further enhance plaque and tartar reduction.7

However, there are chew toys on the market that should not be given to dogs because of their tendency to cause tooth fracture. Nylon bones, cow hooves, and real bones should also be avoided because they are too hard and often are associated with slab fractures of the carnassial teeth. Tennis balls cause attrition (mechanical wearing of the tooth surface) and are also not recommended.


OraVet Barrier Sealant (Merial) is a biologically inert polymer that bonds to the surface of teeth and inhibits plaque and calculus adherence. The product is easy to apply in the office after a prophylaxis, and OraVet Plaque Prevention Gel (Merial) is applied weekly at home to maintain the protective barrier. OraVet Barrier Sealant can be used after a dental or periodontal surgery in which postoperative tooth brushing is contraindicated. Although there are no studies published to document its effectiveness, the preliminary scientific data look promising (Merial Limited: Unpublished data).


Chlorhexidine gluconate, formulated as an oral rinse or a gel, is an excellent oral disinfectant. The chlorhexidine binds to gingival tissue and then exerts its antibacterial effects for 24 to 48 hours. Chlorhexidine kills the bacterial pathogens that contribute to periodontal disease and halitosis. Patients with chronic periodontitis should receive chlorhexidine rinses twice a week and regular tooth brushing on the other days. Other oral rinses, containing substances such as zinc ascorbate or chlorine dioxide, combat halitosis by neutralizing malodorous sulfur compounds. It is important to realize that masking halitosis may not be addressing the primary source of oral pathology.


A novel approach to preventing periodontitis in dogs is on the horizon. Recent studies have shown that the most commonly isolated periopathogens from the oral cavity of dogs with periodontitis are three species of the black-pigmented anaerobic bacteria Porphyromonas: Porphyromonas gulae, Porphyromonas salivosa, and Porphyromonas denticanis.8 A bacterin (Porphyromonas Denticanis-Gulae-Salivosa Bacterin—Pfizer Animal Health) has been shown to be safe in field studies (Pfizer Animal Health: Unpublished data) and effective in an experimental model.9 This soon-to-be-available periodontal disease vaccine will provide veterinarians with an innovative weapon to add to our arsenals in the fight to prevent this common canine disease.

Editors' note: Dr. Carmichael has consulted for Pfizer and Nutramax and has been sponsored by these companies to provide educational lectures.

Dr. Daniel Carmichael
The information and photographs for "Dental Corner" were provided by Daniel T. Carmichael, DVM, DAVDC, Veterinary Medical Center, 75 Sunrise Highway, West Islip, NY 11795.


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