What to Expect at a Dog Dental Cleaning Ensuring Good Oral Hygiene for Your Dog

A Veterinarian Cleaning A Dogs' Teeth
expert or vet photo
vet verified PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian DVM

Thumbnail of Dental Fresh Dog

Dental Fresh Dog

Dental Care
{{petcare_price|currency}} Price in Cart w/PetPlus {{petplus_price|currency}} See PetPlus Price in Cart

It's important to establish an oral health regimen from the time your dog is a pup so that you can avoid dental problems down the line, and that includes a dental cleaning at your vet. Here's what that entails.

Dog dental care is a necessary aspect of your dog’s overall well-being, and a good oral hygiene routine should begin as early as possible -- brushing your dog’s teeth weekly is a great start. Bot not everyone can stick to this schedule, and even if you do, professional vet cleanings are still important. What should we expect in the way of comfort and follow-up at a professional dental dog cleaning?

Do Dogs Need Dental Cleanings?

Yes. Dogs face all the same dental issues we do, like cavities and gum disease. Dental problems cause pain and can even cause serious infections elsewhere in the body. Professional cleanings help keep your dog’s mouth and body healthy. Your vet can check for and treat dental problems in one go.

My Vet Wants to Put My Dog Under Anesthesia for a Cleaning. Is That Really Necessary?

Anesthesia is necessary for canine dental work. While general anesthesia always carries some risk, for healthy dogs the risk is minor, much less than the risk of inadequate dental care. And without anesthesia, a cleaning IS inadequate because no dog on Earth will permit cleaning below the gum line while conscious, and that is exactly where bacteria like to hide.

Some dogs are really not healthy enough for anesthesia, but if your dog is in this position your vet will say so, and then you can decide what to do together. Some vets try to minimize anesthesia by offering cleanings while dogs are sedated for other procedures, such as spay or neuter operations. If you are concerned about anesthesia, ask if your vet is willing to make one period of sedation serve double-duty in this way.

Preparing for the Cleaning

Your vet will need to do blood work, and sometimes urinalysis, in order to be sure your dog is healthy enough for anesthesia. This might require an extra appointment a few days before the cleaning. You may also get instructions to withhold food and water for a number of hours ahead of time.

You also need to make sure you’ll be accessible during the procedure (not running errands without a cell phone, for example). Vets do dental exams during cleanings, and prefer to treat any problems they find during the same visit if at all possible, in order to minimize stress to the dog. That means contacting you to get approval for any needed treatments, and the added charge on your bill.

During the Cleaning

The vet will check for cavities, signs of gum disease, and signs of other oral infections or cancers. Since dogs can’t explain how their mouths feel, canine dental exams have to be more thorough and are likely to include x-rays.

In addition to any necessary treatment, like filling cavities or extracting a tooth, the vet will use a combination of powered and manual de-scaling tools to remove all plaque both above and below the gum line. Polishing the teeth then serves to remove any remaining plaque and also smooths the tooth surface so food particles won’t stick as easily in the future. A final rinse and the cleaning are done.

A breathing tube, that delivers the anesthetic, also keeps your dog from choking on anything during the procedure.

What Happens After the Cleaning

Dogs might not complain about pain, but they do feel it. So engage your pet with play and games in the hours after their treatment. It may help to distract them from their discomfort. If your vet had to do a lot of work, painkillers may be a good option.

Most dogs can go home right after treatment, but you should speak with your vet about whether your dog needs to be kept on kennel rest during the recovery period.

Dogs who have suffered from long-term dental issues without you even realizing it may, after treatment, become more playful or calmer overall. Some people even say their dogs seem younger after a much-needed cleaning.

Dog Teeth Cleaning Options

Figuring out the right toothbrush for your dog can be a daunting task. Here are factors you should consider when choosing one.

When it comes to dog teeth cleaning, there are a lot of products out there for your pet. If you’ve ever found yourself scratching your head in the toothbrush aisle as you choose one for yourself, then just wait until you see all the toothbrushes made for dogs!

There are a few factors to consider when finding the right toothbrush for your dog. Your pup's size, tooth health, temperament, and past tooth care regimes all factor into what brush will work best for your pet. In the end, the right brush for you and your dog will be safe, effective, comfortable, and easy to use and clean.

Here are the types of toothbrushes you can choose for your dog:

Straight toothbrushes

Like human toothbrushes, the straight toothbrush option has a handle with bristles attached to the end. These brushes come with one or two sets of bristles. The amount of bristles needed depends on the size of your dog's mouth and teeth. Dogs that have teeth far back into their mouths will especially benefit from the reach of this type of brush, and the bristles provide good friction to remove tartar and bacteria.

Triple brushes

For efficient brushing, triple brushes have three flexible heads that work together by surrounding individual teeth from all sides. They tend to be fast and effective as they are designed for dog teeth specifically and have the reach and friction of straight toothbrushes.

Products to Try:

Triple Pet Toothbrush

Quad brushes

Designed much like triple toothbrushes, quad brushes have four sets of bristles to clean multiple sides of a tooth in one motion. Each bristle head surrounds all sides of a dog’s tooth, cleaning the front, back, and bottom in one motion. The additional brush cleans the surface of the adjoining tooth as well. These brushes are said to gently clean gums with minimal pressure.

Finger toothbrushes

These handy brushes slip over your finger so you can clean your dog's teeth with more control. They have soft, flexible bristles that massage the teeth and gums while removing debris. This is a great tool for helping puppies get used to tooth care regimes and having objects in their mouths. It is also ideal for small dogs. Though finger brushes have more control, you may have less leverage and reach with a finger toothbrush.

Products to Try:

Triple Pet Finger Brush Kit

Dental sponges

Sponges for dental cleaning come attached to a handle for longer reach, much like straight toothbrushes. This option is softer and more pliable than bristles, so it will be gentle on your dog's teeth. Dental sponges are disposable and are often used with liquid cleaning solutions.

Dog dental wipes and pads

Premoistened dental wipes and pads help control bacteria in your dog's mouth and fight bad breath. Wiping them along teeth and gums will keep your dog's mouth clean, as well as remove debris from the teeth and gums. Wipes and pads are a pliable, gentle option for tooth cleaning, but they do not provide the friction or mechanical action that bristled brushes do. When testing out any of these options, remember to take cues from your dogs on which product makes them most comfortable. And remember to always use toothpaste and mouthwashes specifically made for dogs. Happy brushing!

So... What about the Toothpaste?

Finding the Right Dog Toothpaste

More on Dental Health

Prevent Dental Problems Before They Start
Healthy Adult Dog Teeth
Signs of Strong Dental Health in Dogs

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis, or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified professionals with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard or delay seeking professional advice due to what you may have read on our website.

Was this article helpful?
Gingivitis Periodontal Disease Bad Breath (Halitosis)

You May Also Like