Dental Disease in Bearded Dragons
Dental disease in bearded dragons appears to be more prevalent in captivity than in the wild. Lizards actually lack tooth sockets and their teeth rest on the bone of their maxilla or mandible. These images show severe periodontal disease and osteomyelitis. There is inflammation of the gums (gingivitis), recession of the gums and calculus buildup on the teeth. In severe cases, pocketing around the gums occurs with suppurative gingivitis, abscesses and even osteomyelitis occurring.
This is a radiograph of the skull showing separation of the teeth from the mandibular bone.
It appears there are a few factors which contribute to dental disease in lizards:
- Inappropriate nutrition – overfeeding of softer foods such as fruit and insects can lead to plaque formation as the food accumulates around the teeth.
- Infection – as plaque builds up, this leads to infection and gingivitis of the gums. Typically, in early infections, gram positive cocci are present then as plaque matures organisms include anaerobes, gram negatives and spirochetes
- Trauma- such as nose rubbing on glass or bone weakened by nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism (Metabolic Bone Disease) can lead to facial deformities (rubber jaw) or malalignment of the jaws.
Treatment usually involves the following:
- Addressing the underlying causes – husbandry and diet modification
- Culture and sensitivity – for appropriate anti-microbial choice
- Dental x-rays – to assess for boney lytic lesions suggestive of osteomyelitis
- Anesthetized oral exam and dental cleaning – to remove the superficial calculus buildup and deep debridement of bone
- Long-term monitoring and home care with chlorhexidine oral flushes and tooth brushing.
- Lafeber Vet: Understanding Reptile Dental Anatomy: Clinical Applications: https://lafeber.com/vet/understanding-reptile-dental-anatomy-clinical-applications/#periodontal
- McCraken HE. Periodontal disease in lizards – A Review of Numerous Cases, 1994, Proceedings of Association of Zoo Veterinarians. https://cdn.ymaws.com/members.arav.org/resource/resmgr/Files/Proceedings_1994/1994_25.pdf