My vet says my pet needs a dental cleaning and I’ve got questions.

Why does my pet need a dental cleaning?

Regular dental cleanings are needed to prevent periodontal disease. Periodontal disease takes place below the gum line. It is caused by the bacteria living on dental plaque and tartar eating away at the bone surrounding teeth. This process leads to gingival inflammation, bone loss, infection, and tooth loss. It is a painful process. The bacteria from the mouth can also enter the bloodstream and affect the heart, liver, and kidneys. This can lead to further health problems within these major organs.

What happens when my pet gets a dental cleaning?

General anesthesia is essential for a thorough dental cleaning and oral exam, and also allows for dental radiographs (x-rays) to be taken. It is important to note that removing plaque below the gum line can only be completed under anesthesia. Like we discussed above, it is this plaque and tartar below the gum line that is the cause of periodontal disease. After an initial assessment of your pet’s mouth, the plaque and tartar are removed with both ultrasonic and hand scaling. After the scaling, the teeth are polished.

If any significant tooth or oral disease is found during the oral exam, your veterinarian may recommend surgical extraction of diseased teeth or address other abnormalities, such as oral masses that may require removal or biopsy.

Why is a dental cleaning for my pet more expensive than a dental cleaning for myself?

The biggest difference between the cleanings for your pet versus you is the general anesthesia which, as discussed above, is essential for addressing and preventing periodontal disease. At Frontier, we make anesthesia as safe as possible. We require pre-anesthetic blood work to assess major organ function before putting your pet under anesthesia. We also place IV catheters and administer IV fluids for all patients undergoing anesthesia. We monitor blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, respiratory rate, carbon dioxide exchange, and oxygenation of your pet during anesthesia.

Also the size of the pet makes a big difference. Once under anesthesia, the average cleaning time for a cat or small dog takes about 45 minutes. But a 100lb+ dog can easily take 1.5-2 hours!  In addition to the cleaning, if dental radiographs are taken then it can add another 15-30 minutes depending on the size of the patient.

If extractions are needed, this too can add a significant amount to the cost of a cleaning.  A human tooth root is straight, whereas cat and dog tooth roots are often curved and have divergent roots. Also, the roots of your pet’s teeth are sometimes 2-3 longer than that of a human.  It is truly oral surgery in order to extract teeth from your pet.

Why doesn’t my pet act like his teeth hurt?

In the wild, animals tend to hide signs of illness or weakness as a survival mechanism.  Dogs and cats have retained this trait.  A dog or cat can have significant dental disease and painful teeth, but they will still eat.  If you have ever had a sore tooth, you still eat too… but it isn’t a comfortable process.

Often dental disease is a gradual onset, and some people mistake it as their pet getting “grumpy” in old age. We’ve heard many owners remark how their pet acts “years younger” after a dental cleaning and removal of any painful teeth.

What's Next

  • 1

    Call us or schedule an appointment online.

  • 2

    Meet with a doctor for an initial exam.

  • 3

    Put a plan together for your pet.