Dental Cleaning

Dental care can add three to five years to your pet's life. Dental care is a little recognized, yet necessary part of caring for your pets. By the age of three, some 80 percent of all dogs and 70 percent of all cats show signs of dental disease, which can lead to the more serious problems of heart, lung, and kidney disease. Lewis’ dog breath and Mischief’s tuna breath aren't something to be ignored, for they are likely indicative of an oral problem. The sooner you have it treated by your veterinarian (and learn to care for it yourself), the sooner your pet can stay on the road to health as well as smell good!


Periodontal disease is an infection of the gum tissue by bacteria. It all begins with Plaque! Plaque and tartar form naturally when food remains in the cracks of the teeth, especially at the gum line. Canned food sticks easier, so it is more likely to cause plaque. At this stage the plaque is still soft, and brushing or chewing hard food and toys can remove it. If it is left to spread, plaque can lead to gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums, causing them to become red and swollen and painful. Plaque soon hardens into tartar that forms a wedge separating the tooth from the gum. If the plaque and tartar buildup continue, pus can form at the root of the tooth. This is the most advanced stage, showing up as loose teeth, bleeding gums and pain anytime your pet tries to eat. Periodontal disease can be prevented and treated. The keys to your pet's oral health are professional veterinary dental care and good care at home. Too few pets receive both and most don't receive either. You can change that today!

Step 1. Visit your veterinarian.

In addition to a physical examination and medical history, the doctor will examine your pet's teeth and gums. Recommendations may be made for cleaning, polishing, and other dental care in the hospital, or your veterinarian may suggest a program of home dental care.

Step 2. Professional dental care

No other procedure performed on small animals does more to help patients than periodic teeth cleaning and after care. The dental visit for cleaning must be performed in a methodical manner. All steps are important and interlinked. When one step is not performed, long term patient benefit suffers.

1. Pre-surgical blood work. These blood tests evaluate the blood cell count, liver and kidney function. THey determine which anesthetic protocol we use.

2. IV Fluids. These help maintain your pet's blood pressure during anesthesia, provide IV access in the event of an emergency, and help metabolize the anesthesia.

3. General anesthesia and monitoring by an animal health technologist. We carefully monitor every pet under anesthesia. We use a pulse oximeter to evaluate heart rate and oxygen saturation, and a doppler to evaluate any changes in blood pressure.

4. Oral examination under general anesthesia. We examine individual teeth for mobility, fractures, malocclusion, and periodontal disease (probe for pocket depths after calculus is removed).

5. Plaque and tartar removal using calculus removing forceps, hand instruments, and power scaling equipment.

Ultrasonic Cleaning

The ultrasonic scaler removes plaque and tartar from the teeth. Heat generated by an ultrasonic scaler can cause severe damage to the tooth and periodontal support. Ultrasonic units must be used on crowns and exposed root surfaces only.

We use a feather light touch, keeping the water-cooled tip moving in constant sweeping motion to avoid thermal injury. Use the side of the tip not the point to remove tartar.

6. Polishing. Regardless of how careful we are during the scaling/curettage phase of teeth cleaning, minor defects of the tooth surface occur. Polishing smoothes out the defects and removes plaque missed during previous steps. Pumice or polishing paste is used on a polishing cup for the procedure.

When polishing, use firm pressure until the cup edge flares. Overheating is prevented by relieving pressure slightly as the cup moves over each tooth.

7. Irrigation. With irrigation, diseased tissue and plaque are removed from the pocket or sulcus. Water spray and/or a 0.1-0.2% Chlorhexidine gluconate solution are commonly used. Blunted 23G needles are available for manual irrigation. Power irrigation is supplied on many delivery systems.

8. Intraoral x-rays taken to evaluate degree of periodontal disease

9. Post cleaning examination and diagnostics. After cleaning, teeth are examined individually via periodontal probing, compressed air application to the gingiva to examine for retained calculus, Shepherd’s hook exploration, disclosing solution, and radiology (if indicated).

10. Charting. Record disease present before therapy. Charting must include missing , loose, fractured , and discolored teeth, as well as feline oral resorptive lesions, periodontal pocket depths, gingival recession, and other significant lesions.

11. After treatment records must include: Dental care performed Follow up recommendations Antibiotics dispensed When the next radiographs are recommended When the next dental exam recommended

Step 3. Dental care at home.

For cats and dogs, regular brushing is an important part of any preventive dental program. A special toothbrush and toothpaste for pets are recommended. Your veterinarian can show you the proper way to brush your pet's teeth.

Teeth Brushing

The most important area to focus on is the gum line, where bacteria and food mix to form plaque. Start slowly to get your pet used to the idea of home dental care. Dip a finger into tuna water and gently rub along the gums and teeth. Once your pet is okay with a little bit of touching, gradually introduce gauze over your finger, and rub the teeth and gums in a circular fashion. Try it with a toothbrush specially designed for pets, or a very soft, ultra-sensitive toothbrush designed for people; an inexpensive electric toothbrush will work well. Use pet toothpaste , but never use people toothpaste or baking soda, as both will upset your pet's stomach. The entire process should only take a minute or two. With plenty of praise and reassurance, your dental sessions can forever banish the term dog breath. There are a number of unique dental diets that will decrease plaque and tartar formation. It does not need to be fed as the entire diet to be effective.