Periodontal Disease – Looks Can Be Deceiving!

This is Jack. Jack is a 5 year old Lab cross with seemingly nice teeth. His owner brought him to his vet because he was having some nasal discharge, but was otherwise eating/drinking normally and acting like his old self. Little did the family know that Jack was suffering from severe periodontal disease – that is disease of the tooth roots and surrounding bone above the gum line.


After many unsuccessful nasal tests, the vet decided to investigate whether Jack’s teeth could be involved in the discharge issue. What they found on dental X-ray was shocking – ALL of Jack’s tooth roots were diseased, and many teeth had almost no bone left around their roots, as it had been eaten away by infection. So much so that the upper roots had rotted up into the nasal cavity, creating the nasal discharge. The roots of Jack’s teeth on these X-rays are sitting loose in an open black cavity where bone once was, and several tooth root tips have abscessed right off.



Jack ended up seeing a veterinary dental specialist and having all his teeth taken out. That seems extreme but was necessary, and now he is happier than ever with no more nasal discharge. He does well with soft food and toys, and most importantly, is disease and pain free!

jack post

This case illustrates perfectly how a large percentage of dental disease in pets (especially small breed dogs and cats) hides above the gum line where we can’t see it at first glance. This is the problem with periodontal disease – it is vastly underdiagnosed on routine oral exams. Jack also shows us that many pets with severe dental/periodontal disease still eat and drink seemingly well and do not show overt signs of oral pain. This is why dental X-rays during dental cleanings in ALL pets are so important – they allow us to look above the gum line at the roots of teeth and surrounding bone to identify pathology that would otherwise be missed.

If teeth cleaning with X-rays are performed routinely and prophylactically, many pets’ teeth can be saved by cleaning under the gum line, removing diseased tissue, and even instilling antibiotic gel under the affected gum tissue. Depending on the pets’ breed and age, cleanings under anesthetic should start as early as 1 year of age and continue every 1-3 years thereafter. Prevention is the key to great oral health!

Please do not hesitate to contact one of our knowledgeable staff members for more information about dental cleanings, the new digital dental X-ray system we offer, and what we can do to help your pet live free of dental pain and disease. 613-836-5040