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Gingivitis and Stomatitis in Dogs

By Lorraine Hiscox DVM FAVD Dip. AVDC; Jan Bellows, DVM, Dipl. AVDC, ABVP

Dental, Pet Services

Gingivitis of the left upper fourth premolarWhat are gingivitis and stomatitis?

Gingivitis is a medical term that refers to inflammation of the gums. Gingivitis is the earliest, and only reversible stage, of periodontal disease.

Stomatitis refers to a more generalized inflammation of the mucous membranes within the mouth and may involve the gums, tongue, inner surfaces of the lips, and/or the floor and roof of the mouth.

What causes gingivitis and stomatitis?

Gingivitis may be caused by a bacterial infection from plaque bacteria on the teeth and is usually associated with poor oral hygiene. When bacteria enter into the small space between the gums and teeth, known as the gingival sulcus, they may cause an inflammatory reaction. If gingivitis is left untreated, bacterial infection can progress to tooth supporting structures and result in tooth loss (periodontal disease).

The cause of stomatitis in dogs is unknown but may be caused by a hyperimmune (over reaction) response of the gum tissues to bacterial biofilm.

What are the clinical signs of gingivitis and stomatitis?

Gingivitis is an inflammation (redness and swelling) along the gumline where the gum contacts the tooth. Typically, there will also be bad breath (halitosis). When the teeth are brushed, the inflamed gums will often bleed.

3Stomatitis is a more severe form of inflammation than gingivitis and usually involves more tissues than the gingiva including the tongue, lips, and other soft tissues in and around the mouth. Stomatitis is often very painful causing a decreased appetite due to the pain. Often the dog’s haircoat will appear unkempt due to lack of self-grooming.

How are these conditions diagnosed?

Diagnosis is primarily based on medical history and clinical signs. Blood and urine tests are often recommended to look for any underlying systemic disease that could also result in inflamed gums or oral tissues. Intraoral dental radiographs (X-rays) are taken to determine if there is any damage to the tooth roots and other supporting tooth structures.

How are gingivitis and stomatitis treated?

The first step is a complete oral health assessment under general anesthesia combined with a thorough cleaning of the teeth. The deposits of plaque and tartar are removed with ultrasonic scaling followed by polishing of the tooth surfaces. It is important to clean the tissues beneath the gumline carefully to remove any accumulated plaque or tartar.

"The first step is a complete oral health assessment under general anesthesia combined with a thorough cleaning of the teeth."

The treatment of stomatitis involves treating the underlying cause of the problem, if one can be identified. Regardless, a detailed assessment under general anesthesia combined with a thorough teeth cleaning and polishing is also appropriate. Extractions may also be required. Afterwards, a detailed homecare program specific to your pet should be instituted and anti-inflammatories and antibiotics may also be prescribed.

 Stomatitis resolved after full mouth extraction

What is the prognosis for gingivitis and stomatitis?

The prognosis for gingivitis is excellent, provided you follow your veterinarian's instructions. Your dog will benefit tremendously from a professional oral ­­­assessment, treatmen­­t and teeth cleaning under anesthesia, followed by a consistent oral homecare routine. The prognosis for stomatitis varies depending on the specific situation for each pet.

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