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American Pet Hospital

Woman playing with shiba inu dog on couch



Regular teeth cleanings (on average at least once a year) will help your pet live longer and be healthier.

Studies show that 50% of all dogs and cats have some form of periodontal disease. That number jumps to 80% of pets that are 3 years of age or older. If left untreated, periodontal disease can cause infection, pain, and tooth loss over time. It can also lead to serious health problems like microscopic changes in the heart, liver, and kidneys. Because of this, we recommend an annual veterinary dental healthcare examination for all pets.

Why Should I Have My Pet’s Teeth Cleaned?

Annual dental exams and cleanings are recommended to protect your pet from many health problems and help them maintain a healthy and clean mouth. Dental disease is a chronic source of infection. This infection affects the heart, liver, kidneys, and other organs. With time, it takes its toll on these organs and will lead to a shortened life. Tooth loss and abscess is a common finding among our companion animals. One way to help your pet keep his or her teeth is to have them cleaned regularly. Most of the problem teeth we encounter may have been avoided, had the pet had the teeth cleaned more often. This in turn allows for a healthier pet and less expense for the owner. It will also help get rid of that stinky dog breath.

I Already Brush My Dog’s Teeth. Why Do They Need To Be Cleaned?

Brushing is good, and it can help keep the teeth clean. In order to be effective, daily tooth brushing is necessary. If not done, tartar builds up over time and starts to work its way under the gumline, allowing infection access to the roots. Once the tartar forms, it is very difficult to remove, and brushing alone will not remove it. We use a special instrument that uses ultrasonic sound waves to break up and remove the tartar. This is followed by a good polishing and dental sealant.

What’s Involved In A Dental Cleaning?

Your pet will be placed under anesthesia to allow for proper cleaning of ALL the teeth (42 teeth in dogs, ​40 in cats). Dental cleanings done without anesthesia in our pets accomplish very little, as it does not allow for proper cleaning, probing for pockets, and dental radiographs among other things. Once sedated, a full mouth set of radiographs (x-rays) will be taken to identify problem teeth, roots, hidden abscess, etc. The teeth are then cleaned, and any rotten or bad teeth are removed, followed by a good polishing and sealant of the remaining teeth. Pets are dropped off in the morning and go home the same afternoon, where they can eat dinner that evening.

Teeth Exams, Cleaning, and Polishing

Dog and cat dental cleanings are very similar to human dental cleanings, except that we are required to use anesthesia to properly and safely examine and clean the teeth. After the cleaning, our veterinarians perform a thorough oral exam and check for signs of disease like gum loss, root exposure, or pockets around the root.

Also similar to human dentistry, we do full mouth radiographs (x-rays) of your pet. This allows our veterinarians to be able to evaluate the roots of your pet's teeth as well as any disease or abnormalities that are located below the gum line and not visible on examination alone.

Tooth Extractions

We make every effort to save teeth that we feel have a chance to be successfully treated. In many circumstances, however, periodontal disease is so advanced that treatment without extraction is unsuccessful. We only extract teeth that in the doctor's opinion are beyond saving.

Minor Oral Surgery

Many teeth require oral surgery to safely remove each individual root. We have extensive training and experience to perform these procedures properly. Pain medications are administered in clinic and provided for in-home aftercare.

A Couple Of Myths

Myth: “My pet is too old for anesthesia. It’s just too dangerous.”

Fact: We do everything we can to minimize the anesthesia risk, including the use of very safe anesthetics, coupled with continual monitoring of all the important vital signs by advanced medical monitoring equipment. If your pet’s physical exam is normal, and the blood work does not reveal any significant abnormalities, then the risk of anesthesia is generally low, regardless of age. Studies have shown that routine dental cleanings actually allow your pet to live longer (on average, 2 years longer) and with fewer health problems because the chronic infection from the mouth is not a factor anymore. We recommend pre-anesthetic blood work before any dental cleaning to ensure your pet’s organs and body processes are functioning properly. If your pet is not a good candidate for anesthesia, our doctors will discuss the reasons and risks involved before any anesthesia is performed.

Myth: “If you pull my pet’s teeth, he/she won’t be able to eat dry food anymore.”

Fact: Imagine the worst toothache you have ever had, and then imagine living with it every day. Our pets can’t tell us that their teeth hurt. They may stop chewing on toys or rawhides, stop eating dry food, become grumpy, lethargic, or just not be themselves anymore. Most pets feel so much better once the infected teeth and roots are removed, and they start acting like themselves again. Oh, and yes, they will eat dry food just fine.