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4 min read

3 Reasons Why Your Pet Needs Dental Cleaning


By Leslie Ingraham

Published: 12/04/2021, edited: 03/02/2022

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Dental cleaning for your pet may seem like an optional expense, but dogs and cats can develop gum disease just like humans. We can brush our teeth daily to keep the tartar that builds up from food on our teeth at bay, but there are fewer pet owners who do the same for their pets. Left unchecked, tartar can harden into plaque that, over time, develops into periodontal disease, a condition that causes pain, gum erosion, infections and even tooth loss. 

Keeping an eye on your pet's oral health is important, and routine dental cleanings are one of the best ways to do that. Check out these 3 reasons why your pet needs a dental cleaning!

Dental cleanings prevent tooth loss

With untreated periodontal disease, the supporting tissues under the teeth become spongy and slowly deteriorate, leaving teeth without a stable foundation. Eventually, this can lead to abscesses, loose teeth, and tooth loss. Teeth that fall out leave behind unhealthy tissue which can spread to adjacent teeth as well. 

Missing teeth will leave gaps that make chewing difficult because of poor occlusion. The ability to bite and chew can also be affected because the remaining teeth may shift, leaving more gaps. Objects like pieces of sticks or food can get caught between teeth, causing discomfort and bleeding. Any organic substances wedged against the gums may result in gum infections and cavities. If your dog or cat chews their stuffed toys, particles of fake fur, threads, and other parts can become caught in their teeth, causing irritation. 

Dental cleaning provides an opportunity for the veterinarian to closely examine the pet's mouth for problems, and to prevent further tooth loss with timely treatment.

Dental cleanings alleviate pain

While most pets will shy away from your touch when they’re hurting, some can get used to the constant pain and not show that they’re suffering. Plus, animals instinctually hide their pain so they are not an easy target for predators, so it can be hard to tell if your dog or cat is uncomfortable. You'll need to notice subtle signs to catch mouth pain in your pet, such as abnormal chewing, drooling, dropping food, lessened appetite, refusal to eat, or preferring soft food to hard, dry foods.

Periodontal disease is painful for dogs and cats, causing sore gums, loosened teeth, abscesses, and infections. But there are other reasons for oral pain in pets, such as tumors, cysts, wounds from sharp objects or hard food, or ulcers. Most of these are not obvious to the pet parent, and they may only be discovered during a cleaning.

Thorough dental cleaning takes care of the issues that cause pain and prevents many conditions from developing in the first place. Many pets become more lively and playful after a dental cleaning and can live pain-free. 

Dental cleanings improve health and longevity

When periodontal disease is allowed to continue without treatment, bacteria travels through the bloodstream to the body’s other organs, potentially causing irreversible damage. The resulting acute and chronic illness can significantly affect your pet’s quality of life and life expectancy. 

Nephritis, or kidney infection, can progress to renal insufficiency or complete shutdown of the organ. In humans, dialysis or transplant would be the next step, but it’s likely that only large muttropolitan veterinary hospitals have the ability to offer them to their pet patients.

Pericarditis is an inflammation of the tissue surrounding the heart. The disease produces large volumes of fluid around the heart, affecting the way it's able to pump and move blood through the body. This can result in congestive heart failure, a sometimes fatal disease.

Liver conditions like hepatic inflammation may eventually affect the liver’s ability to filter toxins out of the blood, and sepsis may follow. The body needs the liver to survive, and although transplants are available to eligible humans, these life-saving procedures are rare for pets.

What happens during a dental cleaning?

Dental cleanings are performed under anesthesia so the pet will be still and comfortable, and allows for a thorough exam and cleaning. Trying to do a complete cleaning without anesthesia is impossible and dangerous. Ultrasonic and hand scalers reach deep under the gums to clear away tartar and plaque. After plaque removal, the teeth are polished to remove any microscopic scrapes on the enamel that may have resulted from the use of the scaling instruments. Any other treatments, such as extractions, will be done while the pup is still under anesthesia.

To help prevent spread of infection and reduce future plaque, the vet may apply some solutions immediately after the dental cleaning. This may include a fluoride wash, an antibiotic solution, and cleaning compounds. These applications decrease tooth sensitivity, strengthen enamel, and treat remnants of bacterial infection.

Several dental problems can be detected during a thorough dental cleaning, including broken teeth, abscesses, mouth cysts or tumors, malocclusion (teeth not lining up correctly), a damaged jaw, and palate defects, and some can often be taken care of during the cleaning. 

What do I do between cleanings?

In as little as six hours after a dental cleaning, plaque begins forming again on your pet’s teeth. so it’s important to continue the good dental hygiene that began at the veterinary clinic. The most effective way to do this is to brush your pet’s teeth daily, if possible. There are products available that make this sometimes difficult procedure a bit easier, including “finger brushes” and delicious pet toothpastes. 

Other products meant to help keep teeth clean include special dental diets, dental treats, and enzyme liquids that you can drop into your pet’s water. As helpful as these products can be, thorough dental cleaning once a year is the gold standard for preventing and treating problems in your pet’s mouth.

While you are looking at your pet's mouth, keep an eye out for signs that your pup or kitty is having some problems, such as:

  • Broken or loose teeth
  • Extra teeth or retained baby teeth
  • Discolored teeth
  • Bleeding from the mouth
  • Swelling in areas surrounding the mouth

Preventative care for pets can be expensive, and pet insurance plans usually don’t cover routine dental exams and cleanings. Wellness packages can reimburse up to 100% of the cost of routine exams and diagnostic tests within 24 hours. To find the right option for your pet and budget, check out our wellness plans.

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