St. Francis Veterinary Clinic
Providing Quality Pet Care
Call: (501) 327-9200

Dental Services


Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is the inflammation of the tissues surrounding a tooth (essentially, the tooth's support system). It can affect as little as one or two teeth or as much as a pet's whole mouth. Left untreated, periodontal disease can lead to severe oral pain, loss of teeth, other dental diseases and a wide array of complications throughout the body. Proper dental care can prevent periodontal disease and is an important aspect of keeping your pet healthy.

Causes of Periodontal Disease

The development of periodontal disease is a gradual process that begins with the formation of plaque on the teeth. Bacteria in the mouth form plaque, a bacterial film that adheres to the teeth. Next, minerals in saliva harden the plaque into dental tartar (calculus), which becomes firmly attached to teeth. The plaque and tartar, both of which contain bacteria, spread under gum line. The bacteria secrete toxins and cause damage to the supporting tissues around the tooth, creating a pocket around the tooth. Certain pets seem to have a genetic predisposition to periodontal disease. This often relates to the pet's breed. Many small breed dogs, such as Dachshunds and Chihuahuas are especially prone to periodontal disease.

Before Dental Cleaning


After Dental Cleaning

Signs of Periodontal Disease

The signs of periodontal disease depend upon the severity of the disease. They may also vary. The first thing most people will notice is halitosis. Contrary to what many people believe, pets are not supposed to have bad breath. This is a sign of dental disease that should be addressed right away. Pets with advanced periodontal disease tend to have especially foul breath. As periodontal disease progresses, so does oral pain. Pets may become reluctant or unable to chew food and treats. They may also lose interest in chew toys. Often, pets will begin to salivate more than usual. The saliva may even be blood-tinged. Upon closer inspection of the teeth, you or your vet will notice gingivitis (inflammation/reddening of the gums) at the very least. As periodontal disease advances, teeth will eventually become loose.

Risks of Periodontal Disease

In the mouth, periodontal disease causes damage to gum tissue and bone around the teeth, leading to loss of these tissues. In addition, periodontal disease can also cause the following problems to occur in the mouth:

  • Development of a hole (fistula) from the oral cavity into the nasal passages causing nasal discharge
  • Weakening of the jaw bone that can lead to fractures
  • Bone infection

However, it is important to understand that periodontal disease can lead to other major health problems throughout the body, including the following:

  • Heart Disease
  • Kidney Disease
  • Liver Disease
  • Diabetes
  • Various Infections

What does a pet dental exam involve?

Pets can experience many of the same dental issues that humans do, including gingivitis, periodontal disease, necessary tooth extraction, and deep scaling. Regular dental exams and cleanings can help you avoid the costliness of involved dental procedures and can help prevent your pet from unnecessary suffering.

Pet dental exams are similar to human dental exams and involve teeth cleaning and buffing. Additional services offered include sedation dentistry and dental X-rays. If more serious conditions are discovered, root canals, tooth extraction, etc. might be required.

During your pet’s teeth cleaning, a dental technician will gently clean the surface of the teeth with an ultrasonic scaler that cleans using the vibration of sound waves and water. The waves push the water creating tiny scrubbing bubbles that implode on tooth surfaces and kill microbes as they separate plaque from the tooth structure. After scaling the teeth, the technician lightly buffs and polishes your pet’s teeth to complete their dental cleaning.

After the cleaning, we will provide you with a comprehensive analysis of your pet’s oral health. You will receive at-home oral hygiene tips specific to your pet, and if any serious dental conditions exist, you will be notified prior to any treatment planning.


Some simple home hygiene tips are: 

  • Brushing your pet’s teeth as little as one time a week can cut down on 50-60% of tartar build-up. 
  • Dental products specifically designed for pets, including Oravet and CET, can help protect gums and lessen tartar. 
  • Dry pet food is better for teeth than canned food; it causes abrasion to tooth surfaces when chewed, helping remove tartar build-up. Other treats such as raw-hide can also help remove built-up plaque.
  • There are many pet toys that support dental health. Buying your pets these toys not only entertains them, but offers a dual purpose in helping clean teeth.

Remember, creating a smooth clean tooth surface makes it more difficult for tartar and plaque to build up!

If you would like to schedule a professional dental cleaning for your pet, call our office to schedule an appointment, and allow your pet to experience a healthy smile!