The Importance of Professional Dental Cleanings

Not only can dental disease impact our pet’s overall health, it can also impact their quality of life, as dental disease can be a source of pain.  It is estimated that between 70-80% of cats and dogs suffer from dental disease.   Unfortunately many owners are unaware of the importance of professional dental cleanings and there are many misconceptions.

Top five misconceptions about your pets dental health

Dogs and cats don’t need professional dental cleanings because their wild counterparts don’t receive them.
In the jungle it is survival of the fittest.  Just as people suffered with pain and infection before modern medicine and dentistry, wild animals also suffer from such conditions.

Today we are fortunate enough to benefit from human dental care and our pets are fortunate enough to benefit from veterinary dental care.  Routine dental care, including thorough dental cleanings, improves our quality of life and can also improve the quality of life of our companion animals.

My pet loves to chew on toys and bones and therefore he doesn’t need professional dental cleanings.
We can do a lot at home to improve our pet’s dental health.  Providing good chew toys can help keep the teeth clean.

For those who are able to and want to take a more active role, brushing your pet’s teeth with veterinary approved toothpaste can also be beneficial.  As humans we brush our teeth twice a day, and yet we still benefit from routine, professional dental cleanings.  The same is true of our pets.

Bones and brushing can help, but there are still those hard to reach areas where bacteria like to live, especially between teeth and along the gum line, that make professional dental cleanings very important for our pet’s oral health.

Anesthesia for veterinary dental cleaning is unnecessary as most pets’ teeth can be cleaned while awake.
A thorough dentistry involves cleaning all the teeth, including hard to reach areas in, under and around the gum line.  During this procedure, painful areas can be exposed and sometimes extractions or other potentially painful dental procedures are necessary.

Anesthesia ensures that all areas can be cleaned, and pain can be managed.  The teeth can also be thoroughly polished, which is an important step in preventing rapid buildup of tartar after the procedure.

The risks of anesthesia outweigh the benefits of a professional dental cleaning.
Veterinarians take many precautions to reduce the risks of anesthesia.  These include a physical exam and pre-anesthetic blood work to make sure all organs are working properly before anesthesia is performed.  Anesthetic monitoring equipment is used by most veterinarians to ensure that the procedure goes smoothly and so that intervention is performed if there is a concern.

Dentistry under anesthesia is performed numerous times a day throughout the country.  Anesthetic events in otherwise healthy patients are very rare.

The benefits of professional dental cleanings are a reduction in oral bacteria, which when left untreated can spread to other organs of the body, the alleviation of chronic and acute pain through various dental procedures that can only be performed when the patient is under anesthesia, and fresher smelling breath.

My pet’s teeth aren’t that bad, so I think I will wait until it is absolutely necessary.
In some cases waiting can be okay, but as time passes, bacteria can erode the teeth and bony sockets and bacteria can enter the bloodstream, causing infection throughout the body.  Teeth that may have been salvaged, if they had been treated sooner, may now require advanced dental procedures or extraction.  This can greatly impact pain and recovery time for our pets as well as increase expenses for us.

Having dental cleanings performed in our veterinarian’s office is no less important than having our own dental cleanings performed in our human dentist’s office. Ask your veterinarian to look at your pet’s teeth.  It may be time for a professional cleaning.

Josh Wohlstadter, DVM is co-owner of Purdy Veterinary Hospital, in Gig Harbor, WA.  He and his wife Jessica live in Gig Harbor, WA with their three dogs, Murphy a Mastiff, Charlie a Standard Poodle and Tuck a Miniature Poodle.