Monday, August 15, 2016

Dental Discussion - Secret Diseases that Dental Disease Causes

How seriously do you take care of your own teeth?

Some of us take it very seriously, and visit the dentist regularly as well as the oral hygiene steps at home.  Some of us winge about the cost of visiting a dentist, and do not see the benefit of it.

Would we complain so much if we really knew how important keeping your mouth healthy is to the overall health of your body?  Probably not!

As a vet, my primary focus is the care of your pet - every single part of them - from their mouth, skin, heart, kidneys, liver, intestines, brains - you name it.  I became a vet to keep animals healthy, and to help sick ones get better. 

I think of Dental Disease as a hidden disease.

It is a disease that likes to hide, but whilst it is hiding, it isn't silent in the pain and distress it causes our pets. Our pets feel it, but our pets do not complain about it (like we would).

Whilst they are eating normally, love us unconditionally, and show us how much they love us, all the while, in their mouths are evil bacteria which are plotting to eat away at the gum and bone, unknownst to us.

You do not need a vet degree to see the hard brown tartar sitting on the tooth surface, or to be able to smell the pus that is hiding between the gum and the tooth. 

That brown stuff on the teeth is not the hidden disease I am writing about today. 

There are some serious hidden diseases that dental disease has been linked to.  These are the diseases that you would not have thought would be even remotely caused by dental disease.

I am going to share the story of twi very lucky pets, because they were owned by three dedicated, loving pet owners, who (yes, I am biased), came in to see us at Russell Vale Animal Clinic.

Immune Mediated Disease - in this case, eyelid disease (Blepharitis)

Our immune system is fascinating, and scary, and, well, overwhelming in how it can react to things.  I think of the immune system like an invisible army, with reserves, ready to go to fight any evil thing that wants to attack the body.

Sometimes, though, it attacks the body it is trying to protect.  Immune mediated disease (or Auto immune disease) is just that.

Blepharitis secondary to dental disease.
Something has stimulated or activated the immune system, and in its process, has triggered a response.

Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids, which can affect the eyelids themselves, and/or the meibomian glands within it. There are many causes, such as mites, bacteria, fungal, and of course, the very own immune system of the animal.

Part of the treatment for Blepharitis is identifying what the potential trigger is - and in this case, it was considered to be the teeth.  The dog had not had any recent vaccinations (in fact she was overdue), no recent (past 6 weeks) medication, and there had been no other changes in the environment.  All blood work and urine tests were considered normal.

But, this one did have periodontal disease, which has been longstanding.

Aggressive dental therapy included identifying diseased teeth (with the help of dental radiographs were were able to find 3 dead teeth due to their widened pulp), as well as endodontic disease (tooth abscesses) that were hidden from view.

Future treatment will include regular (each six months) dental assessments and cleaning under a general anaesthetic, but the alternate to this is full mouth extractions (doable, but not preferred).

Kidney Disease
 It is well documented that ongoing severe dental disease will contribute to disease of our livers and kidneys.
Testing for Kidney Disease starts with a urine sample.

But it may surprise many people that if we are able to remove the disease in the mouth, in many dogs and cats, the kidney enzymes can actually go back to normal.

Why is it so?

There are many reasons why it can be so. What causes the damage to the kidneys  is the constant bacterial invasion through the blood stream from swollen bleeding gums that get trapped in the nephrons in the kidneys, ticking them off one by one.  
No surprise here about the bacteria and pus spreading from here through the blood stream

 Some nephrons can recover from the insult, and some decide that it is time to give up as they have been hit one time too many.

Once the disease in the mouth has been removed, then the ongoing onslaught to the traumatised nephrons stop - and the kidney is then able to repair (to some degree) the damage.  

How to prevent these problems? 

  • Understand that despite your best efforts, your pet probably has some degree of pet dental disease, which requires ongoing treatment, whether it is via you, or with our help.

  • Understand that you do not need to feel guilty if your pet suffers from these conditions - just trust your vet and take all steps needed to fix the problem.
We know that many pet owners are distraught to find out their pet has disease (often to the point of crying), we do understand that, but let us tackle this problem together, as both you and I want to help your furbaby.

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi.  I am on a mission to improve the health of of our pets, one by one.