Professional Pet Dental Cleaning: What, Why, and When

Professional dental cleanings are recommended for humans every six months—sometimes more frequently, for those affected by gum disease. Despite dental care’s recognized importance for people, this crucial wellness aspect is often overlooked for dogs and cats. The Animal Hospital of Parkland team believes proper oral health care can prevent chronic oral pain, improve your pet’s overall wellbeing, and extend their life. Along with a daily oral home care regimen, professional pet dental cleanings are the key to your pet’s long-term dental health.

Why do pets need professional dental cleanings?

Dental disease creeps up on the majority of dogs and cats by age 3 or 4, and can result in long-term health consequences. Bacteria and plaque coat pet teeth after eating, and harden into tartar over time. Plaque, tartar, and bacteria buildup lead to gum inflammation and eventual breakdown of the teeth, periodontal ligaments, and jaw bone. Dental disease is painful, and only one damaged tooth can cause a significant quality of life decline. 

Dental disease not only causes pain and discomfort, but can also actually impact your pet’s systemic health and lead to a shorter life. Bacterial infections deep in the gum and jaw bones can spread through the blood and damage the liver, lungs, kidneys, or heart, where serious infections can be life-threatening. Regular professional dental cleanings treat painful disease, and prevent further disease progression.

What is a professional pet dental cleaning?

During a professional pet dental cleaning, your veterinary team will anesthetize your pet for their safety and comfort, and then perform the following steps:

  • Scaling and polishing — We remove plaque and tartar, and smooth the tooth surface to reduce future buildup.
  • Subgingival scaling — We clean below the gumline to remove bacteria and debris, especially in deep, infected pockets, which is crucial for preventing dental disease progression.
  • X-rays — We evaluate each tooth root using a small, intra-oral X-ray plate.
  • Charting — We document your pet’s oral health details in their medical record.
  • Extractions and other treatment — We typically remove diseased, loose, infected, or fractured teeth, but we may occasionally use other treatments like antibiotic gels.

Does my pet need a professional dental cleaning?

Once yellow-brown tartar accumulates on the teeth, only a professional dental cleaning can remove it. Other signs your pet needs a dental cleaning include:

  • Bad breath
  • Red or bleeding gums
  • Drooling
  • Dropping food or preferring soft food
  • Behavior changes—less interest in play or chewing, less active, more irritable

How often do most pets need professional dental cleanings?

Ideally, dental cleanings should be performed before significant disease forms, which we call a dental prophylaxis (i.e., a cleaning that prevents rather than treats problems). Our hospital recommends yearly cleanings, which keep most pets’ teeth healthy, but some small, toy, or brachycephalic breeds may require more frequent cleanings. An annual dental examination performed in conjunction with your pet’s wellness visit can help determine the best schedule for your pet. 

Is anesthesia necessary for a professional pet dental cleaning?

Yes, anesthesia helps keep your pet safe and comfortable during their dental procedure, which would not be possible if they were awake. Cleaning teeth effectively requires using sharp instruments below the gum line—and your pet must stay completely still for their safety and to prevent pain. Attempting to perform dental work in your awake pet would be stressful for your pet, and dangerous for the veterinary team.

One of the most important steps during a dental cleaning is the X-rays, which often reveal hidden problems in pets whose teeth appear healthy. Performing dental work without taking X-rays means your pet could still have pain or infection deep in the tooth roots that isn’t adequately addressed. For these reasons, our hospital does not recommend or perform anesthesia-free dentistry.

What are my pet dental home care options?

Daily toothbrushing removes plaque from your pet’s teeth before the sticky substance hardens into tartar, which keeps teeth healthier for longer. In some cases, regular brushing can extend the time between your pet’s professional dental cleanings, but your veterinarian must determine this on an individual basis. Ask your veterinarian for instructions on how to brush your pet’s teeth, or for adjunctive dental product recommendations. 

Each pet is an individual, and your veterinarian is your best resource for oral care product recommendations and a professional pet dental cleaning schedule that works for you, your pet, and your family. To learn more about dental health, or to schedule a dental exam or professional cleaning for your pet, contact the Animal Hospital of Parkland team.

By |2024-02-14T23:51:03+00:00February 24th, 2023|Uncategorized|0 Comments

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