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What Do You Mean My Pet Needs A Dental Cleaning?- Memphis Area Pet Health

Posted 02.06.13 by Katie Wooden, DVM

Before and After a Dental Cleaning

Why Should I Clean My Pet’s Teeth?

Dental health is extremely important to your pet’s overall health! Unless your pet’s teeth are brushed daily, plaque, which is an accumulation of bacteria, will build up at the gum line. Eventually calculus forms, further irritating the gums, and then infection progresses to loosen and destroy the attachment of the tooth. Periodontal disease can lead to kidney, heart, and liver problems.  It also can lead to painful conditions, such as tooth root abscesses and lost teeth.  Since good dental care can prevent future health problems, it can save you money long term.

85% of pets over the age of 3 have periodontal disease, so it is one of the most common health problems we see.

What Should I Do?

Take your pet to their veterinarian for regular checkups. Your veterinarian will assess your pet’s dental health and determine if any treatment is necessary. If your pet does not have visible dental disease, they may recommend oral health products, such as pet-safe toothpaste/toothbrushes, dental rinses, or dental chews. If your pet does have periodontal disease, your vet will recommend making an appointment for a dental cleaning.

What Occurs During a Dental Cleaning?

General anesthesia is necessary to provide a safe and thorough dental cleaning. Anesthesia allows us to clean below the gum line,  control pain, and ensure that bacterial products do not enter the respiratory system. We take every effort to provide safe anesthesia. We use gas anesthetic agents and monitor patients with similar monitoring devices as used in human hospitals. An intravenous catheter is also placed, so IV fluids can be given to maintain blood pressure.

The following occurs during our dental cleaning procedure:

  • general exam before anesthesia, pre-operative organ testing is recommended
  • oral exam under anesthesia
  • gross plaque removal
  • subgingival (below the gumline) scaling, root planing, curettage where indicated
  • tooth polishing
  •  application of a fluoride sealer and plaque repellent.
  • post cleaning exam
  •  dental x-rays if needed to evaluate the areas below the gum line
  • removal of any diseased or loose teeth
  • dental charting to create a treatment plan

Can’t I just brush their teeth at home?

A professional dental cleaning is needed in order to remove current plaque buildup from teeth. No dental health products will be able to remove plaque buildup from teeth, but they will prevent further plaque buildup. After a dental cleaning, home care is extremely important to prevent plaque from building up on newly cleaned teeth.

Toothpaste and Brushing

Just as with your own teeth, nothing beats brushing. The fibers of the toothbrush are able to reach between teeth and under gums to pick out tiny deposits of food. Never use a human toothpaste for a pet as these contain sudsing agents and artificial sweeteners  that are not meant to be swallowed. Animal toothpastes come in pet-preferred flavors (chicken, seafood, and malt) in addition to the more human-appreciated mint. All are expected to be swallowed.

Dental Rinses

Some animals, especially those with tender gums, will not tolerate brushing.  In this case, dental rinses are a good option. These products contain ingredients to combat dental disease and will flush food particles out of dental pockets.  These products are best used daily.

Dental Treats

While brushing is best, dental treats may be another option.  A proper dental chew can reduce plaque by up to 69%. Chewing provides abrasion against the tooth removing plaque and tartar. We recommend C.E.T Oral Hygiene Chews and Greenies, since they contain special ingredients to combat dental tartar accumulation. We  only recommend giving your pets these treats when you are able to supervise them. Rarely, pets can attempt to swallow these whole and can choke.  Please monitor your pets while they are enjoying their treats.

dog dental cleaning

Dental Diet

We recommend Royal Canin Dental Diet for pets that have problems with dental disease. In this diet, the kibbles are large, which means the pet must chew them before swallowing them. These diets are high in fiber, which means the kibbles do not shatter when chewed but instead the tooth sinks into the kibble, allowing plaque to be essentially scrubbed away.  The Dental diet also contains an ingredient that binds salivary calcium, making it unavailable to form plaque.


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