So my dog needs his teeth cleaned! Now what?

February 11, 2019

So my dog needs his teeth cleaned! Now what?

There are 2 very different kinds of dental cleaning currently available to pets and their Owners.

Cosmetic Dental Cleaning - This type of cleaning is becoming popular as it is done with the pet awake, without the use of anesthesia, and is available to pet Owner's through some Grooming facilities. There are 2 obvious benefits to this method 1) that anesthesia is not used and it's related concerns are reduced 2) that the costs are less than a procedure using anesthesia. However, there are also significant risks and limitations that must be considered.

Firstly, is your pet one that is amenable to handling around the mouth? Or do they have the patience to stay still while the equipment is being used? Secondly, even if your pet does fall into the category the cleaning is very superficial - meaning that typically only the outer surfaces of your dog's teeth are cleaned and there is no cleaning below the gum line (where damage to the periodontal ligament occurs). Bigger problems may be missed as there is no examination of the gingival space, assessment of the mobility of the teeth or identification and treatment of fractures. It goes without saying that dental X Rays (which show the health of the lower half of the tooth - at least 50% of the tooth's structure) also cannot be completed. Finally, depending on the Operator of the equipment and their experience (or how much your dog is moving) the scaler used to handscale can cause damage to the enamel of the teeth, leading to crevasses that predispose to further plaque and tartar formation.

Professional Dentistry - This is the more traditional and more thorough approach to dental care in pets and is available only through veterinarians. This type of dentistry is performed under a general anesthetic which has the benefits of:

1. Being able to do a much more thorough full mouth exam, including the inner surfaces and sides of the teeth, the gingival pockets around the tooth and the entirety of the cheeks and palate

2. Allowing dental x-rays to assess the underlying bone support and root structures of the tooth

3. Allowing assessment and immediate treatment for loose teeth or fractured teeth

4. Allowing the use of ultrasonic equipment to clean under the gumline and polish the dental surfaces to reduce damage to the enamel

However, as an anesthetic is involved the costs are higher and your pet would need to be examined first to ensure that they can safely undergo this type of procedure.

How much do dog teeth cleanings cost and what goes on in the treatment room? This dog dental health guide will help: Dog Teeth Cleaning Costs | petMD

In truth the best way to reduce dental costs for your pet is to reduce the needs of the dental care. This can be done by staying on top of your pet's mouth and keeping it healthy. As discussed in our last blog there are various different approaches to this which can include brushing your pets teeth, a diet formulated for dental care, appropriate chew toys and regular check ups to address problems quickly.

As always if you have any other questions or would like to discuss how dental care may benefit your pet the vets at Healthy Pets are always just a phone call away!