How Often Should Dogs Get Their Teeth Cleaned?

Your dog’s dental health is just as important as your own. One of the best ways to ensure your dog has optimal dental health and no hidden painful problems is to take them for regular teeth cleanings. In dogs, periodontal disease is extremely common and can affect as many as 1 in 3 dogs before they reach the age of three. This infection has the potential to spread from your dog’s gums and into his bloodstream, where it can be transported to different parts of the body, including major organs. Dental disease can cause abnormal changes in the liver, kidney and heart. However, all of these issues can be prevented with regular oral care! 

At what age should you start getting your dog’s teeth cleaned?

Most dogs and cats should have their first dental cleaning at 2-3 years of age. Small breed dogs should definitely receive care no later than two years of age.  You don’t want to wait much longer than this, as signs of periodontal disease are commonly seen by these ages. Even if your pet has very little calculus (tartar) visible, there are frequently painful problems hidden under the gumline that can only be found with a detailed exam and dental X-rays.

What is the teeth cleaning process for dogs?

All dogs are different, so the cleaning procedure will be tailored to your pet’s specific needs. Anesthesia is required for any dental care in veterinary patients. Before treatment, blood tests should be run in order to make sure there are no issues that might affect the safety of anesthesia. 

 After your dog is under anesthesia, the procedure is relatively similar to a human’s dental cleaning procedure, using a variety of instruments to remove plaque and tartar and polish the teeth. After the teeth are cleaned, dental X-Rays are always taken as part of the procedure to find hidden problems. A large number of veterinary patients have painful problems hidden under the gumline that can only be identified with dental x-rays.

Following the procedure, your dog will be watched closely until they are fully awake and able to walk, and then you can take him home! At home after the procedure, your dog may be sleepy for a few hours, but will usually eat a normal dinner that night. 

Can you clean a dog’s teeth without anesthesia?

Despite the claims of businesses that claim to provide dental cleaning procedures without anesthesia, it is simply not possible to provide meaningful care to veterinary patients if they are awake. These services prey on an owner’s fear of anesthesia to provide a substandard service that has very little benefit for their pet. Without anesthesia, all that can be accomplished is removal of most (not all) of the calculus that is visible above the gumline. But calculus above the gumline does not cause much problem for your pet! It is the calculus under the gumline and crowded between the teeth that cause the problems. In addition, you cannot perform a detailed dental exam or obtain dental X-rays on conscious veterinary patients, so many problems will be missed completely, while they might still be treatable. Consider the amount of cooperation that human patients provide  while our teeth are cleaned. We are totally cooperative, with our mouths opened wide, for around an hour. What are the odds that a veterinary patient, with more disease than the average person, will provide that level of cooperation? They simply won’t.  

Because they do not require trained staff, anesthetic drugs and equipment or a dedicated facility to provide their services, these anesthesia-free cleaning services are incredibly profitable for the business owner. If this service had any value, every veterinary dentist would have their well-trained staff performing cleanings without anesthesia. There is not a single veterinary dentist in the US who offers this service.

Anesthesia should concern owners, but when it is done correctly the risk is very low. Before your pet is treated, ask your veterinarian about how they monitor their anesthetized patients and what their safety record is. Clinics who do a good job are more than happy to discuss anesthesia with their clients.  

How often should my dog get teeth cleanings?

Most veterinary dentists recommend professional teeth cleanings once a year for most breeds, but a few individuals, especially smaller breeds, may need 2 visits per year due to prevent loss of teeth. After a  cleaning, your veterinarian can recommend the appropriate cleaning interval for your pet.

Keeping Your Dog’s Teeth Healthy Between Teeth Cleanings 

At home, you can do your part to maintain your dog’s oral health. Brushing your dog’s teeth regularly along with other home care products can pay big dividends. You can also give your dog approved dental chews and dental treats to help remove plaque from your dog’s teeth. You should avoid hard chew toys such as cow hooves, hard plastic bones, real bones and antlers. While dogs love to chew on these objects they frequently fracture the chewing teeth, resulting in painful infection of these fractured teeth.

The harder chew toys do help keep plaque and calculus accumulations down, but are not worth the risk. Appropriate chew toys should be slightly bendable to prevent damage to the teeth. Regardless of what chew toys you provide, your pet should be supervised while they are chewing and any smaller pieces that could be swallowed should be taken away.

Veterinary Dentist in Montana

Dr. Tony Woodward is the only board-certified veterinary dentist in all of Montana and is highly experienced in treating dental disease in dogs. If you suspect that your dog has a dental infection, all you need to do is call our Bozeman office and schedule an appointment. Dr. Woodward is on-site here in Bozeman full-time to handle all of your dog’s dental needs.