Professional dental cleanings are an important part of your pet’s dental health care. However, many pet owners are unsure about when their pet needs their first cleaning, and how often their pet’s teeth should be cleaned. Each pet’s dental cleaning schedule is different, but here are a few guidelines you can follow to determine the most appropriate time frame.
What happens during a professional dental cleaning for pets?
Do you wonder what your pet’s professional dental cleaning actually entails? In general, your pet’s cleaning is similar to your own, with the addition of general anesthesia. Anesthesia is essential for a safe, thorough, pain-free oral exam and cleaning in pets. We also use an individualized anesthetic protocol to minimize your pet’s stress and pain by ensuring they remain unaware during the entire procedure. This allows us to carefully examine and clean each tooth, above and below the gum line, and to take full-mouth dental X-rays, which would all be impossible if your pet was not anesthetized.
Once we have examined and cleaned your pet’s teeth, we polish the enamel smooth. If your pet needs diseased or damaged teeth extracted, we can administer additional pain medication and local anesthesia, on top of general anesthesia, to ensure they feel no pain. Most pets recover quickly from their dental cleanings, and can return to their family in a few hours. Recovery from oral surgery is also fast, and most pet owners are amazed at how much better their pet feels after their diseased teeth are removed.
Factors that determine how often your pet needs professional dental cleanings
As a rule of thumb, pets require an annual dental cleaning starting between 2 and 3 years of age. However, several factors can affect the most appropriate time frame between cleanings for individual pets. These factors include:
- Your pet’s age — Typically, older pets have more severe dental disease. As your pet ages, their teeth undergo irreparable wear and tear that can cause faster tartar accumulation, and they are more likely to develop oral masses and cancer that can cause periodontal problems.
- Your pet’s breed, size, and oral anatomy — Pets with flat faces and small mouths are prone to tooth overcrowding, malocclusions, and other periodontal issues. Some small breed dogs may need biannual dental cleanings, starting at 6 to 12 months of age.
- Your pet’s health conditions — Certain inflammatory and autoimmune diseases can make your pet develop gingivitis and dental disease much faster, requiring more frequent cleanings.
- Your pet’s at-home dental care — Pets who receive little to no at-home dental care will suffer from an increased oral bacteria load and more severe dental disease. Regular at-home dental care can greatly prolong the time between your pet’s dental cleanings.
How to keep your pet’s teeth healthy between dental cleanings
You can do your part at home to maintain your furry pal’s oral health. While professional dental cleanings are essential for assessing your pet’s oral health and thoroughly cleaning their teeth, at-home care between cleanings is equally important. Without regular at-home dental care, your pet will suffer more severe dental disease and need more frequent dental cleanings. Regular at-home dental care for your pet will not only save them from pain and infection, but also save you money in the long run.
Keep your pet’s teeth healthy at home by:
- Brushing regularly — Plaque begins to form on your pet’s teeth only a few hours after eating, and then hardens into tartar in 24 hours. Tartar is almost impossible to remove through brushing alone, so strive to brush your pet’s teeth daily.
- Giving dental chews and treats — Specially formulated dental chews and treats, which contain oral bacteria-fighting ingredients, can help slow dental disease development by scraping away some plaque and tartar.
- Avoiding hard chew toys — Not all chew toys are safe for your pet. Some items, including cow hooves, deer antlers, and bones of any sort, are too hard, and do more harm than good. Chewing on sticks and tennis balls is also harmful for pets.
- Using approved dental health products — When choosing the best dental health products for your pet, look for the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s (VOHC) seal of approval. VOHC-approved products have proven their ability to slow plaque and tartar accumulation. We carry many VOHC-approved products in our hospital, and other options can be found in our online pharmacy.
Diligent at-home dental care will help prolong the time between professional dental cleanings, but your pet will still require veterinary oral care. Contact our Island Animal Hospital team to schedule your pet’s next dental care appointment, so we can help you determine a timeline for their dental cleanings.