You know the importance of regular teeth cleanings for your own dental health, but did you know that regular dental cleanings are also important for your pet’s health? By age 3, most pets have some form of periodontal disease. Professional dental cleanings can protect your pet, so our Columbia Pike Animal Hospital team explains how professional dental cleanings support your pet’s oral health, and how often your pet’s teeth should be cleaned and examined. 

Dental cleanings protect pets from disease

Dental disease is an infection of the teeth, gums, and surrounding structures that is caused by bacteria that build up on the teeth and become trapped beneath the gum line. Plaque accumulates only a few hours after eating, and can turn into tartar, which is difficult to remove. Early dental disease signs in pets include:

  • Bad breath
  • Yellow tartar buildup on the teeth
  • Red, swollen gums

Over time, dental disease can worsen and affect the gums, dental ligaments, and bone, leading to pain, tooth loss, jaw fractures, and bacteria spreading through the bloodstream to essential organs, such as the kidneys and heart. Any pet can develop dental disease, although certain breeds, including dachshunds, Yorkshire terriers, Chihuahuas, pugs, bulldogs, boxers, Boston terriers, greyhounds, and Persian cats are more at risk. 

While brushing your pet’s teeth is an important part of their at-home oral care, brushing alone cannot completely remove tartar, and professional veterinary dental cleanings are necessary to scale and clean all teeth surfaces, including below the gum line, where most tartar accumulates. Most veterinarians recommend that your pet’s mouth be examined and cleaned at least annually, but pets prone to dental disease may need more frequent check-ups and cleanings.

Professional dental cleanings are safe and effective for pets

Your veterinarian will first perform a thorough dental examination on your pet, who will require anesthesia to keep them still and pain-free while their oral cavity is examined, dental X-rays are taken, teeth are cleaned below the gum line, and diseased teeth are treated or extracted. Professional teeth cleaning includes:

  • Scaling tartar from the each tooth surface, above and below the gumline
  • Polishing each tooth to prevent bacteria from adhering
  • Probing the gum line for pockets, which indicate periodontal disease
  • Irrigating below the gum line to flush away bacteria and debris
  • Rinsing the entire mouth with an antimicrobial solution

After your pet’s dental cleaning, your veterinarian will discuss the procedure and how you can maintain your pet’s oral care between visits. 

At-home oral care maintains your pet’s dental health

While professional cleaning is extremely important, regular at-home toothbrushing—preferably daily—is also necessary. Use these tips when brushing your pet’s teeth:

  • Purchase pet-friendly dental products — Purchase a toothbrush and toothpaste specifically for pets, which is safe, and comes in enticing flavors such as beef, chicken, and fish. Never use human toothpaste, which contains fluoride that can harm pets if swallowed. 
  • Let your pet first lick the toothpaste — Let your pet lick off a small amount of toothpaste on your fingertip, which will get them used to the taste and texture. 
  • Use your finger on your pet’s teeth — Once your pet has tasted the toothpaste, gently rub more paste on their teeth with your finger, to ease introducing the toothbrush.
  • Introduce the toothbrush — When your pet is used to their mouth being opened and their teeth touched, squeeze some toothpaste on their toothbrush, gently lift their upper lip, and place the brush inside their mouth, angling the brush’s bristles to reach the gum line. 
  • Get brushing — Focus on the outer, cheek-side surface of your pet’s teeth, and brush in small circles from top to bottom on each side. When you are finished, reward your pet with praise and a treat.

Your veterinarian can also recommend effective dental products and treats, including chews, oral rinses, and cleansing agents to add to your pet’s drinking water to delay plaque buildup. Always use products approved for pet use by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC). 

Do your pet’s teeth need some TLC? Contact our Columbia Pike Animal Hospital team to schedule your pet’s next dental cleaning.