You know your pet needs professional dental care, but you may not know what that includes, or how often it’s necessary. You may be wondering if your pet’s dental cleaning is similar to your own, if pets also need a cleaning every six months, and how you can possibly look inside their mouth and evaluate their dental health. Our Creature Comforts Veterinary Service team answers these questions and more to ensure your furry pal has fresh breath and a healthy smile.

What does a professional dental cleaning include?

When your pet has a professional dental cleaning, they undergo many of the same steps you would at your dentist appointment. A typical dental cleaning follows this plan:

  1. Health check — We complete a pre-anesthetic exam and testing to evaluate your pet’s health. We need these results to formulate the safest anesthetic protocol for your pet’s specific health status.
  2. Anesthesia — We administer anesthesia by placing an intravenous (IV) catheter, and then injecting a cocktail that includes pain medication and a sedative. Once your pet is relaxed, we induce anesthesia with an IV medication, place an endotracheal (i.e., breathing) tube, and hook up various monitoring equipment. Now your pet is ready for their cleaning.
  3. Oral assessment — We first make a complete oral assessment. We probe the gingival margin, looking for pockets of infection or disease, and take full-mouth dental X-rays to identify pathology below the gum line. Once we’ve diagnosed any periodontal problems, such as tooth-root abscesses, resorptive lesions, or broken teeth, we create a treatment plan that we may carry out before proceeding with the cleaning, or we may first remove a significant portion of the tartar.
  4. Scaling — Next, we scale the plaque and tartar, above and below the gum line, which is crucial, as the oral bacteria in the gingival sulcus are the most destructive to periodontal structures.
  5. Polishing — Once we’ve scaled the teeth clean, we polish the enamel, because a smooth tooth surface is more resistant to sticky oral bacteria and plaque, and helps slow buildup.
  6. Sealing — Depending on your pet’s needs, we may finish the dental cleaning with a fluoride treatment or oral sealant.
  7. Recovery We recover your pet from anesthesia and monitor them closely until they are ready to return home.

How often should my pet have a professional dental cleaning?

Most pets require annual dental cleanings beginning between 2 and 3 years of age. However, some toy and small breeds may need baby teeth extracted and tartar removed as early as 8 months of age. Then, frequent dental cleanings are required to prevent plaque and tartar accumulation and dental disease.

Some pets are reluctant to have their mouths examined, which makes assessing their oral health difficult. For these pets, we follow general guidelines to determine how frequently they need their teeth cleaned, and then fully assess their oral health while they are anesthetized, and adjust our plan, if necessary.

Factors that influence the frequency of your pet’s professional dental cleaning include:

  • Breed and size — In general, smaller breeds need more frequent cleanings. Toy and small breeds often have crowded teeth and shallow tooth roots and are more susceptible to periodontal disease. Brachycephalic breeds with flattened muzzles, like bulldogs, Boston terriers, and Persian cats, are more prone to dental disease because their bite is misaligned. Certain breeds, like greyhounds, simply have poor oral health genetics and suffer from significant dental disease that needs dedicated care.
  • Chewing habits — Pets who chew aggressively on inappropriate items often fracture their teeth or wear away enamel. Bones, hooves, antlers, tennis balls, and other tough or abrasive chews and toys damage your pet’s teeth and should be avoided.
  • Current health status — Certain pre-existing health conditions that cause inflammation or attack the immune system can make a pet more susceptible to dental disease. For example, cats with feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) often have stomatitis or resorptive lesions.
  • At-home dental care — Pets who receive regular at-home toothbrushing or approved dental health products enjoy longer stretches between dental cleanings. 

The best way to determine how frequently your pet needs their teeth cleaned is an oral exam by your Creature Comforts Veterinary Service veterinarian. While we may not be able to comprehensively evaluate your pet’s mouth while they are awake, we can gain a general idea of their dental disease grade and when they need their next cleaning.

Keeping your pet’s mouth in great shape is essential for their health and wellbeing. Give our Creature Comforts Veterinary Service team a call to schedule your pet’s wellness and oral examinations, and their dental cleaning.