Pet Dental Health: What Happens During a Deep Teeth Cleaning?

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When you're considering pet health care, one topic that pet parents sometimes overlook is dental health. Teeth cleaning for a dog or cat is important at all life stages. Did you know that by the age of three years old, the majority of pets have some form of periodontal (gum) disease, according to the American Veterinary Dental College?

Good dental care is more than just brushing their pearly whites. Sometimes, a veterinary dental procedure like a deep teeth cleaning for your dog or cat is essential to prevent serious dental issues.

A Fresh Start

A healthy dog mouth or sparkling kitty grin often begins at home with the range of available food, treats, and toys that keep bacteria from building up on teeth and gums. Dogs and cats can benefit from a thorough teeth cleaning at home with products that you can purchase at any pet store. However, vet dental care is not just for extreme cases. Instead of waiting until you notice tartar buildup or bad breath, schedule a deep dental cleaning once a year at the vet's office. A professional pet teeth cleaning can accomplish more than regular teeth brushing at home (just like at a human's dentist visit), and a mix of home care and vet attention is the best way to reduce dental issues for your furry companion.

woman holds onto dachshund while female vet cleans her teeth.

Deep Cleaning Details

Vet dental visits vary depending on the size, species, and the severity of any tooth problems. Cleanings will include anesthesia. For a deep clean, a vet has to access the area under the gumline—an uncomfortable and startling procedure for a pet that is fully awake. Anesthetizing your furry friend is crucial for checking the gumline and preventing periodontal disease. Trying to clean under your cat or dog's gums at home might injure your pet and earn you a snap and a scratch, so this is a procedure best left to professionals.

Another component of deep cleaning involves scaling and polishing the crown of the tooth (the visible part). Your vet will have a variety of tools to suit your pet's mouth and needs. Some may look like the picks and scrapers your dental hygienist uses, but the pieces of a veterinary dental kit are shaped specifically for animal teeth. Your vet will also know the special treatment required for every tooth from a huge Great Dane molar to a tiny kitten incisor.

Finally, a vet may take x-rays while your pet is under anesthesia. Just like human dentists use x-rays to find tooth and jaw problems that are invisible to the naked eye, vets need them to determine your pet's dental health needs.

How Often Is Vet Dental Care Needed?

When your kitten or puppy is old enough to start on a puppy or kitten food, talk to your vet about the type of food you are feeding your pet, and have them show you how to do routine dental care at home. The earlier you start, the better it will be for your pet's health. Pets that are used to having their heads and mouths handled from a young age may be more cooperative than if you try to start teeth cleaning later on or after a painful problem. When your pet goes for their first-year checkup, ask your vet if a deep cleaning is needed. Some breeds (like bulldogs and pugs) will need more frequent deep cleanings by a vet due to how their teeth and mouth are naturally formed, according to Animal Wellness Magazine. But every cat and dog is different, so it is always best to follow your vet's recommendations for deep cleanings and overall dental hygiene.

You may not be able to fully prevent your pet from ever having bad breath or developing teeth and gum issues, but regular cleaning will go a long way to preserve your cat or dog's health and quality of life. Work together with your vet to develop a care routine that keeps you and your furry friend smiling!

Contributor Bio

Chrissie Klinger

Chrissie Klinger

Chrissie Klinger is a pet parent that enjoys sharing her home with her furkids, two of her own children and her husband. Chrissie enjoys spending time with all her family members when she is not teaching, writing or blogging. She strives to write articles that help pet owners live a more active and meaningful life with their pets.

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