Gum disease, also called gingivitis, is a series of changes in your dog's mouth, which can eventually lead to periodontal disease. Gingivitis has a list of comprehensive symptoms to help you diagnose your dog. Veterinarians also have grades associated with the disease, which they can use to diagnose your dog's stage of gingivitis. Gingivitis occurs as food particles and bacteria settle along the gum line, causing plaque. If the plaque remains, minerals in saliva combine with the plaque, producing calculus, commonly known as tartar. The tartar then builds up under the gums, and begins to separate the gums from the teeth.
Risk factors for dogs that develop gingivitis, which later becomes periodontal disease, include age and general health, diet and chewing behaviour, breed, genetics, tooth alignment, grooming habits, home care and mouth environment. Older dogs are usually prone to gingivitis and periodontal disease. Dogs that eat kibbles and play with toys are able to remove plaque from their teeth better than dogs that eat canned food. Hair accumulation around the mouth and teeth increase the likeliness of tartar. Dogs that breathe with their mouths open are susceptible to plaque because of dehydration created in the mouth.
Watch for these symptoms for in your dog as the disease progresses: pus around the teeth; persistently bad breath; gums that bleed too easily; sensitivity in and around the mouth area; gums that are red, inflamed, swollen and receding from the teeth; loose or missing teeth; loss of appetite; stomach or intestinal problems; excessive drooling; difficulty chewing and eating and irritability or depression.
Four grades of gingivitis severity exist. Early gingivitis, or grade one, consists of a mild amount of plaque, no radiological changes to the bones and at this stage it is reversible. Grade two gingivitis, called advanced gingivitis, consists of plaque below the gum-line, redness and swelling of the gums, small radiological changes and it is still reversible. Grade three, also called early periodontitis, consists of plaque below the gum-line, redness, swelling, bleeding in response to gentle probing and recession in the gums. Radiologically speaking, there is a 10 to 30 per cent loss of bone support. At stage three, the damage is irreversible. Grade four, also called established periodontitis, is totally irreversible. Larger amounts of tartar are seen at the gumlines, the gums have severe inflammation and recession. There are loose and missing teeth, deep pockets of pus in the gums and the gums bleed extremely easily.