Can you reverse periodontal disease in dogs? A Comprehensive Guide

Treating Gingivitis to Reverse Periodontal Disease

If your dog shows any signs of periodontal disease, take them to a veterinary dentist for a professional dental cleaning. A professional dental cleaning will include scaling the teeth above and below the gum line to remove plaque and tartar, polishing the teeth, taking full mouth x-rays, and checking around each tooth for abnormal pocketing. This procedure will be done under general anesthesia. After a professional dental cleaning for Stage 1 periodontal disease, no further clinical treatment will be necessary. However, you will need to brush your dog’s teeth daily. Your dog’s dental health should not be taken lightly! Without daily oral hygiene care, your dog’s Stage 1 periodontal disease could easily progress into a later stage, causing tooth decay and tooth loss.

First Stage of Periodontal Disease in Pets

At this stage, the pet’s mouth is still basically healthy. However, without yet being visible, plaque is slowly starting to accumulate.

Calculus may have started to appear, but it’s not guaranteed at this stage. Mild gingivitis will show as inflammation and sensitivity of the gums.

One of the easiest ways to recognize stage one periodontal disease is to look for a thin red line on the gum next to the teeth of the animal.

Most likely, there will also be some amount of visible plaque. It is a viscous, creamy film that can be wiped off with relative ease.

Even at this stage, it is important to check if calculus has already formed. A huge threat to the health of the gums, calculus is basically hardened dental plaque accumulated in specific areas.

A hardened surface that is formed provides a perfect base for further plaque formation, calculus is caused by precipitation of minerals and other fluids onto the teeth of the pet.

>>> Periodontal disease at this stage is reversible if no calculus has yet formed. After a thorough cleaning of all accumulated plaque, daily use of Pet Dental Water Additive will do the trick.

Second Stage of Periodontal Disease in Pets

Having reached moderate gingivitis, this stage presents more noticeable inflammation, swelling and sensitivity of the gums.

Covering a larger area of the teeth, now there is also a moderate accumulation of plaque.

Calculus can probably be spotted at this stage, although it may not yet be prevalent. Some amount of bad odor may be clearly noticeable.

At this stage, the red line on the pet’s gum will probably be wider and more evident. This is a big problem because, apart from producing pain to the pet, it can destabilize its immune system, very often leading to infections.

Unfortunately, if an animal’s periodontal condition has advanced to this stage, it can no longer be treated at home.

More than likely, the pet’s owner will have to book a date with a veterinary that specializes in animal dental services.

>>> The good news is that, after a few professional cleaning and diligent home care, the disease can be completely eliminated. Adding a cap-full of Pet Dental Water Additive to the animal’s water bowl each day will help fight and prevent plaque.

Is Periodontal Gum Disease Reversible in Dogs? Canine Yes!

A Dogster reader in Florida recently sent this question on dental disease to our resident vet, Dr. Eric Barchas:

Hi, we have a 5-year-old Boston Terrier. He is quite the active, fun-loving dog. He is a great family pet, and great with the kids. Like any other dog, he likes to play and chew up/eat anything and everything in sight. He eats sticks, grass, socks, clothes, dog toys, and so on.

Over the past few months, my wife and I noticed his breath start to have this rotten odor to it. Then one day we thought to take a better look into his mouth and saw that his front upper gums were a little bit red and a little swollen, and had an infecyrf spot and what looks like holes or gaps in his gums.

We are very worried and extremely concerned but don’t know what to do. We have a local clinic which has very reasonable prices but they are not equipped to do any extensive dental work or x-rays. Unfortunately with the economy down I am the only one working right now, and had a slight cutback in business. We cannot afford to take him to a real clinic. Its hard enough making ends meet without an outrageous vet bill. But, I am willing to try and do whatever it takes and whatever I can to help get our Dugan checked out and proper treatment. Is there anything I can do? Or any medications to try? Any ideas or advice would be greatly appreciated.

It sounds like your dog has periodontal disease. Periodontal disease occurs when bacteria infect the gums and the tissues that support the teeth. The gums turn red due to inflammation (irritation) caused by the bacteria. The bad breath is caused by the smell of bacterial waste products. Periodontal disease develops slowly but it is ubiquitous.

Periodontal disease is a big deal, and it adversely affects the health of anyone — dog, cat, or human — who suffers from it. Sadly, a large majority of adult cats and dogs suffer from periodontal disease.

The treatment for periodontal disease involves physically removing the bacteria (and all debris) from the teeth, gums, and supporting structures. The teeth can be treated in some animals without anesthesia. The gums and supporting structures can not.

Tooth brushing really helps to prevent periodontal disease. However, by the time you see red gums and smell bad breath it’s generally too late for tooth brushing to reverse the problem. The only cure is anesthetic dental work. And that’s expensive.

Antibiotics can reduce severe dental infections temporarily. Tooth brushing some times stops the progress of mild existing dental disease (dental disease is relentlessly progressive), but generally cannot reverse gum inflammation.

I’d recommend that you go to the low cost clinic for an assessment. They may not be able to perform dental work, but they should be offer suggestions to help control the progress of the disease until you can afford an anesthetic procedure. They also will be able to confirm the diagnosis.

For everyone out there who wants to save money on vet bills and help keep their pets healthy, I have a simple piece of advice: brush your dog’s teeth. It is the only reliable way to slow or prevent dental disease.

There is no reliable substitute for tooth brushing. Period. The fact is that without tooth brushing humans, cats, and dogs all reliably develop periodontal disease eventually.

And why, you may ask, don’t wild dogs and cats develop dental disease? Most of them don’t live long enough. They die from disease, starvation, or predation before periodontal disease can develop. Those that live long enough do develop periodontal disease. I am confident that periodontal disease consistently contributes to the deaths of mature wild cats and dogs.

So brush your pet’s teeth. Save thousands of dollars in vet bills. Keep your pet healthier and happier.

About the Author: Eric Barchas, DVM is a veterinarian who lives and works in San Francisco. His emphasis is on small animal medicine, surgery and wellness. An avid traveler, he has studied lions in Botswana and salmon in southern Chile. Visit him at the Dogster Vet Blog and his own site,

Stay informed! Get tips and exclusive deals. Email Let Dogster answer all of your most baffling canine questions!