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You brush your teeth and get them cleaned, so why not your pet as well?

Dog Dental HealthOral health and routine dental checkups are extremely important for our pets, especially since their lifespan is shorter than ours. Pets that receive proper dental care live an average of two to four years longer than those with untreated dental disease, and 85% of dogs at least 4 years of age have some form of dental disease

Like people, animals can suffer from gingivitis and periodontal disease – the most common disease in dogs and cats. If left untreated, these problems can cause pain and lead to systemic infections affecting other organs like the liver, kidneys, and heart.

Bad breath is usually the first sign of dental disease, but it can often be the tip of the iceberg with hidden underlying periodontal disease. There can also be a large quantity of tartar (yellowish substance made up of different salts) and calculus (hardened tartar) already present on the teeth. For this reason, it is very important to ask your veterinarian about your pet’s teeth at each visit to see if a cleaning might be necessary.

What preventative steps can I take?

  • Start your pet early with a dental routine of brushing their teeth on a regular basis (at least three times a week).
  • If they refuse, alternative methods include oral rinses, special food, and drinking water additives as recommended by your veterinarian.
  • If a dental cleaning is recommended, most likely a cleaning will be needed in the future as well. Intervals between cleanings may differ for each patient, and frequent brushing can greatly prolong this time period.

What does a veterinary dental procedure involve?

  • Your pet's professional dental cleaning entails general anesthesia, then ultrasonic scaling to remove tartar and plaque, examining each tooth for any abnormalities, checking the gum tissue, and polishing the teeth to help decrease future tartar build-up.
  • If necessary, taking a digital x-ray of any tooth and surrounding bone that may indicate further disease.
  • If extractions are required due to extensive disease, this will be discussed at your initial examination, but may not be readily apparent until your pet is under anesthesia.

Why is general anesthesia required for pet dental procedures?

To effectively control pain, to allow us to properly clean above and below the gum line, to clean and examine the outside and inside of each tooth, and to allow for the placement of an endotracheal tube (to prevent debris from getting into the windpipe and lungs).

Before anesthesia, we will examine your pet and administer preoperative tests, depending on their age and condition. Monitoring of vital signs is performed during the procedure to ensure the heart and respiratory functions are normal. IV fluids will be given to ensure proper hydration and kidney function.

What if my pet groomer offers teeth brushing and scaling?

When you visit your pet groomer, be very careful when they offer teeth brushing as a service. They may actually be performing a dental procedure called ‘scaling’ without a license. The state of Massachusetts requires that only a veterinary technician can clean, scale and polish teeth under direct veterinary supervision. This is because they have special training in the area of dental procedures and techniques. Anyone that scales your pet’s teeth without polishing may roughen the surface of the teeth and cause tartar to accumulate faster. Also, if your groomer only brushes your pet's teeth once every few months, then it isn’t frequent enough to prevent tartar formation.

Ready to set up your pet's first dental exam or procedure?

If you take care of your pet’s teeth early and routinely, you can prevent pain, suffering, and serious secondary infection as they age. We have already adjusted the treatment plan so a basic dental cleaning (before extractions are needed) is available to more pets.

Please call (508) 881-2400 to set up a dental exam or schedule a dental procedure if your pet already had an exam. We’re here to help your pet keep its smile!

Additional Resources

Video – How To Brush Your Pet's Teeth