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

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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 you 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 is 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 more calm overall. Some people even say their dogs seem younger after a much-needed cleaning.

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.

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