Dental disease is prevalent in pets, and a professional veterinary dental cleaning is an important part of your pet’s health care plan, to prevent problems and address issues caused by dental disease. Our team at Colony Veterinary Hospital wants to provide information about this procedure, so you know what to expect when you schedule your pet’s appointment.

Why does my pet need a professional veterinary dental cleaning?

Bacteria attracted by food particles left in your pet’s mouth cause plaque to accumulate, and minerals deposited from your pet’s saliva cause these plaques to harden, forming tartar. These accumulations of bacteria can invade under the gum line and damage the supporting structures of your pet’s teeth. Periodontal disease proceeds in four stages.

  1. Gingivitis — Stage one involves gum inflammation. No bone loss is present, and the tooth is firmly attached to the supporting structures. Often, no signs are present at this stage, but potential signs include bad breath and red, puffy gums.
  2. Mild periodontitis — Stage two occurs when the tooth’s supporting structures begin to break down, although less than 25% are affected. Mild bone loss may be appreciated on X-rays. Signs include bad breath, and possibly bleeding gums.
  3. Moderate periodontitis — Stage three occurs when 25% to 50% of the tooth’s supporting structures is affected. Moderate bone loss will also likely be present. Signs include bad breath, swollen, bleeding gums, and loose teeth.
  4. Severe periodontitis — Stage four occurs when more than 50% of the tooth’s supporting structures are affected. Severe bone loss is typically present, and signs include bad breath, loose and missing teeth, and discharge from around teeth.

In addition to causing significant problems inside your pet’s mouth, the bacteria can also invade your pet’s blood stream, traveling to organs and causing damage throughout your pet’s body. Organs most commonly affected include the heart, liver, and kidneys.

What is included in a professional veterinary dental cleaning?

A professional veterinary dental cleaning is a comprehensive procedure to fully address all your pet’s dental health care needs.

  • Physical examination — A thorough physical examination will be performed, checking your pet’s temperature, heart, and lungs, to ensure no issues, such as a heart condition, are present that could complicate general anesthesia.
  • Blood work — A complete blood count (CBC) and biochemistry panel are performed to ensure your pet has no health conditions that would make them a poor general anesthesia candidate.
  • General anesthesia — Once your pet is deemed healthy, they are sedated, and an endotracheal tube is placed to administer oxygen and anesthesia, and to prevent water and other substances from being inhaled. General anesthesia is necessary because the instruments used to clean your pet’s teeth are sharp, and they could injure your pet if they aren’t asleep. In addition, the veterinary professional is working with their hands inside your pet’s mouth, and keeping your pet anesthetized ensures they aren’t accidentally bitten. Your pet’s full cooperation allows our veterinary professionals to thoroughly address your pet’s dental care needs, without causing undue stress or pain. Their vital signs are carefully monitored during and after the procedure, to ensure they remain safe.
  • X-rays — Once your pet is under general anesthesia, full mouth X-rays are taken to accurately assess your pet’s dental health. Only about half of your pet’s tooth structure is visible without X-rays, which can detect issues such as bone loss, tooth root decay and abscessation, and tooth or jaw fractures.
  • Dental examination — Each tooth is closely examined, checking for tartar, stability, and any other abnormalities. A curette is used to assess the gingival pockets around each tooth, and the information recorded in your pet’s medical records.
  • Extractions — Infected or severely loose teeth will be extracted, to prevent them from causing further problems and pain.
  • Cleaning — A dental scaler is used to remove plaque and tartar from your pet’s teeth and from under their gum line. 
  • Polishing — The dental scaler leaves microscopic etchings on your pet’s teeth, which can make convenient areas for bacteria to accumulate. Your pet’s teeth are polished to remove these etchings.
  • Medications — Your pet may require antibiotics or pain medications before, during, and after the professional veterinary dental cleaning, depending on their dental disease severity.

How can I help promote my pet’s dental hygiene between cleanings?

A professional veterinary dental cleaning is important to manage your pet’s dental care, but other steps can be taken to ensure their mouth remains as healthy as possible, including.

  • Brushing your pet’s teeth — Daily toothbrushing to remove accumulated food and plaque is the best way to keep your pet’s mouth healthy between professional dental cleanings. Use only pet-friendly products, because human dental hygiene products can be toxic to pets. Products are available in several palatable flavors, such as peanut butter, seafood, and poultry, to make toothbrushing easier for you and your pets.
  • Providing dental treats — Chewing can help remove plaque and tartar from your pet’s teeth. The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) provides a list of approved products to ensure you buy safe, effective treats.
  • Offering a dental diet — Prescription dental diets formulated to help remove plaque and tartar, and to reduce the accumulation of these deposits, also are available. 

Providing appropriate dental care for your pet can protect them from many serious health issues. If you would like to schedule a professional veterinary dental cleaning, contact our team at Colony Veterinary Hospital, so we can protect their pearly whites.