According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have oral disease by the age of 3. It is the most frequently diagnosed health problem in pets. Common signs of oral disease include tartar buildup, red, bleeding or swollen gums, bad breath, and changes in eating or chewing habits.

A veterinarian should evaluate your pet’s dental health at least once a year. We recommend this because bacteria and food debris accumulates around a pet’s teeth and, if left unchecked, will lead to deterioration of the soft tissue and bone surrounding the teeth. This decay results in irreversible periodontal disease and even tooth loss.

What if your pet has dental disease?
A complete dental cleaning is required if your pet already has dental disease. This involves an evaluation of the oral cavity and cleaning not only the surface of the teeth, but underneath the gumline where the majority of bacteria and tartar are found. After the teeth are cleaned, they are polished to smooth the rough surface created by the cleaning. Without polishing, these irregular surfaces allow bacteria and plaque to adhere more easily and accelerate the recurrence of dental disease. Next, an antibacterial solution is flushed below the gumline to remove any debris that collected after the scaling and polishing. Lastly the entire mouth is checked again and dental x-rays may be used to assess the extent of the dental disease and the need for tooth extractions or additional work. Even though most people can tolerate and sit through a thorough dental cleaning, pets can’t. The only way to perform a complete dental cleaning in pets is by using general anesthesia.

What about a non-anesthetic dental?
For many pet parents, the thought of placing their beloved pets under general anesthesia is scarier than the actual cleaning. So what about a non-anesthetic dental cleaning? It is important to know that it is currently illegal for anyone other than a veterinarian or a supervised and trained veterinary technician to perform a dental cleaning. Even when done by a trained professional, there are risks with non-anesthetic dentals. Animals with dental disease often have painful mouths. Without anesthesia, an animal may experience pain and move during the cleaning. This can be dangerous since many of the instruments used are quite sharp and can hurt the animal if it jerks during the procedure. However, the biggest issue with non-anesthetic dental cleanings is that the cleanings are superificial and do not address tartar under the gumline where the majority of dental disease resides. For these reasons, both the American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC) and the American Veterinary Dental Society (AVDS) do not recommend non-anesthetic dental cleanings.

There are other reasons why you should pay close attention to your pet’s dental health. Dental disease can affect other organs in the body: bacteria in the mouth can get into the blood stream and may cause serious kidney infections, liver disease, lung disease, and heart valve disease. Oral disease can also indicate that another disease process is occurring elsewhere in a pet’s body. A thorough physical exam combined with appropriate laboratory work can determine if this is the case.

We can recommend and demonstrate preventative measures you can begin at home.

If your pet needs a dental cleaning, or extractions, click here for more information about what’s involved.

Thank you to the Pet Health Network – for more information about your pets health visit

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