A common question that comes up during a veterinary visit is “how often should I have my pet’s teeth professionally cleaned?” The answer to that question is….. well, it depends!
Dogs (and cats to some extent) come in so many different sizes and shapes, that there’s really no “one size fits all” recommendation when it comes to professional dental health care. Some large breed dogs that chew well and have lots of room in their mouth for their teeth never have to have their teeth cleaned. Some small breed dogs with crowded teeth and poor genetics have to have them done so regularly that it seems they never have clean teeth! So how do a veterinarian and pet owner decide when to have the animal undergo anesthesia for a profession dental procedure?
To help with this process the pet owner needs to answer a couple of questions. First, what is the goal for your pet? If it’s to maintain all of their existing teeth in a healthy state for as long as possible, then frequent pet teeth cleanings are necessary. At El Dorado Animal Hospital, we have a dachshund patient who demonstrates this need well. Despite home care (we’ll talk about this in a second) he builds tartar rapidly, and requires annual teeth cleanings to keep his gum health up to snuff. Fortunately, at almost 6 years of age, he’s not had to have a single tooth extracted! That’s kind of unusual for the breed, so we are showing success with this particular patient.
The second question to ask yourself is, how much home care are you doing? Home care is really important in maintaining good oral health and can help reduce the frequency of professional dental treatment procedures. Once your pet’s teeth are clean, they should be brushed every day. You should apply a weekly barrier sealant wax that helps prevent plaque accumulation (we apply Oravet at the end of the cleaning and send home a sample try of it for you to continue once a week) and consider HealthyMouth, which is the only all-natural plaque prevention water additive that has clinical trials to prove it works, and the only water additive approved by the VOHC (Veterinary Oral Health Council). Even with these home care measures, some pets still need regular cleanings to maintain good gingival health. The dachshund mentioned previously has his teeth brushed often (although the owner admits it’s not daily), drinks water with HealthyMouth, and they use Oravet.
The third question is about money, and can you afford to do all of this? Of course it’s not cheap to have the teeth cleaned! If you have a small dog, you will eventually have to invest in their oral health care. The cost of the cleaning procedure is significantly less if there is less disease and no extractions required. If you wait, the cost goes up. Sometimes situations arise where a pet owner can’t have the teeth cleaned when it’s needed. If that happens to you, just realize that when you do get your pet in for a procedure there may be multiple teeth that need extraction.
Ultimately the decision to have the teeth cleaned is one made with your veterinarian’s advice and based off an oral examination. We also have a new test available called OraStrip, which is a little pad that picks up on bacterial compounds that are present in a mouth that has periodontal disease. This test strip can help you and your veterinarian decide if there is a need for a teeth cleaning.
What about those non-anesthetic dental cleaning options available through grooming salons and some veterinary hospitals? Just don’t do it! There is no proven benefit to cleaning the surfaces of the teeth we can see, and not addressing the area under the gum line. The non-anesthetic procedure cannot clean under the gum and in the hard to reach areas, not to mention that dental x-rays cannot be performed, which is important in detection of periodontal disease.
If you have any concerns about your own pet’s dental health, or just want to discuss professional pet dental care, please call us to make an appointment 480-837-0800.
Sarah Bashaw, DVM
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16765 East Parkview Avenue
Fountain Hills, AZ 85268
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