Maintaining healthy teeth and gums is an important part of overall health. When your dog or cat is recommended for a dental cleaning, that means that periodontal disease is evident. Depending on the level of dental disease present, a dental cleaning can have a drastic effect on your pet’s overall demeanor. Many pet parents report positive changes as a result of having their pet’s teeth cleaned.

Because dental disease can cause pain and discomfort, a dental cleaning can seem like an instant fix. With the removal of plaque and tartar as well as extractions of painful or loose teeth when necessary, pets often feel better as the source of their pain and discomfort has been removed. For dogs or cats that have had a decrease in desire to eat because of a painful mouth, their appetite improves and they are able to eat and have energy again. Pet parents can enjoy interacting with their pets closely again because the source of bad breath has been removed.

A common misconception is that pets can receive a dental cleaning when going to a groomer for other grooming services. Teeth cleaning performed by a groomer will not be as thorough as a cleaning done by trained medical professionals under anesthesia. Calcified tartar must be physically removed with the use of a scaler. It will not come off with simple brushing. Because the use of a scaler can cause damage to the surface of the teeth, it is of utmost importance that only trained medical professionals perform this procedure. Groomers do not have the training or the proper equipment to perform a complete thorough cleaning as can be done under anesthesia at the veterinarian’s office.

A dental cleaning, or dental prophylaxis, is performed under general anesthesia. Similar to a dental cleaning in humans, the teeth are scaled to remove plaque and tartar. The complete set of teeth is then probed and charted. Notations are recorded where there may be gingival recession, resorptive lesions, periodontal pockets, loose or missing teeth, or other changes of note. When necessary, teeth are extracted. The teeth are then polished to smooth the surfaces of any micro scratches that may have occurred during the procedure and fluoride is applied to help strengthen the teeth. As a final step, laser therapy is performed to facilitate decreased discomfort and increased healing after the procedure.

Dogs and cats that have undergone a dental cleaning go home the same day and are often able to resume normal activities by the next day. Those that have had extractions will eat soft food for several days, but return to their normal diets shortly.

Dental cleanings are very common procedures. Most pets will need their first cleaning between the ages of three and five. Many dogs and cats need repeat dental cleanings anywhere from every six months to every couple of years depending on home care, breed, and how quickly they develop dental disease.

While February is often considered Pet Dental Health Month, dental cleanings are performed year round. If you have concerns about your pet’s dental health or would like to discuss dental cleanings, call us to schedule an appointment for a physical exam and evaluation of your pet’s dental health.