You know that you need to visit your dentist biannually, no matter how diligent you are with brushing and flossing at home. The same holds true for your pet. Cats and dogs require as much dental care as people to ensure their smile remains healthy and pain-free. When your four-legged friend undergoes a professional dental cleaning, they receive so much more than a toothbrushing. Read on, to learn why dental cleanings are an essential part of your pet’s oral health care plan, and how often they should be scheduled. 

Why are professional dental cleanings important for pets?

While you may be a diehard toothbrusher who scrubs your pet’s teeth after every meal, you can remove only a portion of their plaque. Plaque begins to accumulate only a few hours after eating, and in only a couple of days can turn into tartar, which is much harder and more difficult to remove. And, not only is tartar impossible to eliminate with a toothbrush, but also a brush cannot reach far enough below the gum line to eliminate oral bacteria. Up to 60% of the tooth’s structure is hidden below gum tissue, so cleaning the entire tooth without general anesthesia and special tools is virtually impossible. However, that is not to say that you shouldn’t brush your pet’s teeth, but that toothbrushing needs to be paired with professional dental cleanings to keep your furry pal’s mouth as healthy as possible. A good at-home dental care routine will prolong the time between your pet’s dental cleanings and keep their mouth healthier overall.

Are some pets more at risk for dental disease?

Any pet of any age can develop dental disease, although certain breeds are more at risk for developing early or severe dental disease. Pets who are more likely to suffer from periodontal problems include:

  • Dachshunds
  • Yorkies
  • Chihuahuas
  • Pugs
  • Bulldogs
  • Boxers
  • Boston terriers
  • Persians
  • Greyhounds

Toy and small breeds, flat-faced cats and dogs, and sighthounds are most at risk for dental disease, largely due to their facial conformation. Tiny breeds may have excessive tartar accumulation by 1 year of age, because they are prone to persistent deciduous teeth, or baby teeth that do not fall out when the adult teeth come in. An already crowded mouth becomes more crowded with two sets of teeth, trapping food, debris, and bacteria, and quickly accumulating plaque and tartar.

What occurs during a professional dental cleaning?

A veterinary dental cleaning for pets is relatively similar to your own dental cleaning, with one key exceptionpets need general anesthesia for a dental cleaning. Anesthesia is necessary to perform a thorough oral exam, take diagnostic dental X-rays, clean teeth below the gum line, and extract or treat diseased teeth and periodontal problems without pain or stress for the pet. 

Once your pet is fully anesthetized, our team will take full-mouth dental X-rays to check for hidden periodontal problems. Resorptive lesions, fractured teeth, tooth-root abscesses, teeth fragments, endodontic disease, and jawbone loss can be identified on X-rays. We’ll also perform a thorough oral exam, probing for and charting problem areas. 

After we’ve evaluated your pet’s oral health, we’ll create a treatment plan. Some pets require a comprehensive dental cleaning, while others need multiple extractions. During the cleaning portion of the procedure, we use hand tools and an ultrasonic scaler to remove plaque and tartar above and below the gum line. Next, we use a fine polish to smooth tiny abrasions in the enamel, making the teeth less susceptible to sticky plaque accumulation. We finish by applying a fluoride treatment to strengthen the enamel. 

Once the teeth are cleaned and any problems are treated, we recover your pet from anesthesia. Typically, most pets recover quickly and return home to eat and drink normally that same evening. Pets heal remarkably quickly from oral surgery, and having no diseased teeth positively affects their happiness and well-being.

How frequently should my pet have a professional dental cleaning?

In most cases, cats and dogs should undergo a professional dental cleaning every year. However, some pets are more prone to dental disease and may need more frequent cleanings, to ensure their mouth stays pain-free. Pets who are at greater risk for severe dental disease, or those who have chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes or FIV, should have frequent dental cleanings, to prevent infection that can complicate disease management.

Is your furry pal in need of professional dental care? We’ve got you covered. Contact our Stone Ridge Veterinary Medical Center of Willis team, and schedule your pet’s dental cleaning.