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Periodontal disease is the overall term we give to infections in the tissue surrounding the teeth. Plaque and tartar form when food stays in the cracks and crevices of the teeth, especially along the gum line. In the early stages of periodontal disease, plaque is still soft, and brushing or chewing hard food and toys can dislodge it. If left to harden, plaque can lead to an inflammation of the gums called gingivitis.
When plaque mixes with saliva, it hardens and becomes tartar and calculus. Bacteria, plaque, tartar and calculus irritate the gums, making them tender, red and swollen. This stage of dental disease is called gingivitis. At this point, professional cleaning is needed. If the plaque and tartar buildup continues unchecked the tooth may become infected. In the final stages of periodontal disease, the tissues surrounding the tooth are killed, the bony socket holding the tooth erodes, and the tooth falls out.
Periodontal disease can be prevented and treated. The keys to your pet's oral health are professional veterinary dental care and good care at home. Too few pets receive both, and most don't receive either.