Dental Cleaning in Dogs

Gingivitis of the left upper fourth premolarWhat is involved with a professional teeth cleaning visit for my dog?

When rough tartar accumulates on tooth surfaces and touches the gum line it’s time for a professional oral assessment, treatment, and prevention visit. This visit will include a thorough dental examination, teeth cleaning, and polishing to remove the tartar and invisible plaque from all of the tooth surfaces.

Your veterinarian may perform pre-anesthetic blood tests to ensure that kidney and liver function are satisfactory for anesthesia, as well as an evaluation of the heart and abdomen if needed.

What happens during the exam?

For proper dental care your dog will be placed under general anesthesia. Once your dog is under general anesthesia, your veterinarian and veterinary assistants will thoroughly examine the mouth, noting abnormalities in the medical record. A dental probe will be used to evaluate gum bleeding and periodontal pockets where food can accumulate if not cared for.

When periodontal disease is advanced, it may not be possible to save the badly affected teeth, which may need to be extracted.

Moderate stomatitis in a Carin TerrierHow are my dog's teeth cleaned?

After examination, tooth scaling will be performed, using both hand and ultrasonic scalers to remove tartar above and below the gum line. The tartar below the gum line causes the most significant periodontal disease, so it is important that it be thoroughly removed.

After scaling, the teeth are polished to remove microscopic scratches and decrease the rate of Moderate stomatitis in a Carin Terriersubsequent plaque build-up. Special applications such as fluoride, antibiotic preparations and cleaning compounds may be used to decrease tooth sensitivity, strengthen enamel, treat bacterial infection and reduce future plaque accumulation.

The procedures your dog may require will be discussed with you before her dental cleaning. Since it can be difficult to predict the extent of dental disease in advance of the procedure, it is imperative that your veterinarian be able to reach you during the procedure to discuss any additional treatment that may be necessary.

Why can't I just remove the tartar and plaque with a human dental scaler?

Although you can remove the accumulated tartar above the gum line, in dogs that are extremely co-operative, there are three problems with doing this. First, only the visible tartar above the gum line is removed, leaving the plaque and tartar below the gum line which will continue to cause periodontal problems. Second, it’s neither possible nor safe to clean the inner surfaces of the teeth properly in a conscious dog. Third, the use of any instrument on the tooth enamel will cause microscopic scratches on the surface and will ultimately damage the tooth surface, leading to further disease – this is the reason your dental hygienist always polishes your teeth after removing tartar with dental instruments.

Severe stomatitis in lower jaw, affecting the tongueDo I have to make an appointment for my dog to have a dental scaling and polishing?

Yes. Your veterinarian will perform pre-anesthetic tests and examine your pet for underlying disorders prior to the procedure, and they may determine that antibiotic treatment should be prescribed in advance.

How can I prevent tartar accumulation after the procedure?

Plaque and tartar begin forming in as little as six hours after your dog's dental cleaning. A home dental care program including regular tooth brushing is a ideal. Your veterinarian will provide you with detailed instructions on how to brush or rinse your dog's teeth. However, not all dogs will allow their humans to brush their teeth, especially if they have had a sore mouth for any length of time. For these pets, the veterinarians at Blue Cross Animal Hospital recommend the use of Healthy Mouth

Can I use human toothpaste?

Gingivitis resolved after ultrasonic cleaning and daily plaque controlAbsolutely not. Human dentifrice or toothpaste should never be used in dogs. Human teeth cleaning detergents contain ingredients that are not intended to be swallowed and can cause internal problems if they are swallowed. Human products also commonly contain higher levels of salt which can be a problem for some dogs.

You should also avoid using baking soda to clean your dog's teeth. Baking soda has a high alkaline content and, if swallowed, it can upset the acid balance in the stomach and digestive tract. In addition, baking soda does not taste good, which may cause your dog to be uncooperative when you try to brush her teeth.

Why is pet toothpaste recommended?

Stomatitis resolved after full mouth extractionNumerous pet toothpastes are non-foaming, safe to be swallowed and available in flavors that are appealing to dogs including poultry, beef, malt and mint. If you use a product that tastes good, your dog will be more likely to enjoy the whole experience.

In addition to the pleasant taste, many of these doggy toothpastes contain enzymes that are designed to help break down plaque chemically, which reduces the time you need to actually spend brushing your dog's teeth.

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