Toothbrushing and Dental Prophylaxis in Cats and Dogs


Why should I brush my dog’s or cat’s teeth?

You should brush your pet’s teeth daily as a good practice for pet dental care. Daily removal of plaque is the key to a good pet oral hygiene program. Unless your pet’s teeth are brushed daily, plaque, which is an accumulation of bacteria, will build up at the gum line. Eventually calculus forms, further irritating the gums, and then infection progresses to loosen and destroy the attachment of the tooth. In addition to loose teeth, infection under the gumline can spread to the liver, kidneys, and heart.

How can I brush my animal’s teeth?

It is usually a very easy procedure. First pick a soft-bristled, or finger toothbrush. Next, get veterinary approved toothpaste. Do not use human toothpaste because it has detergents that should not be swallowed. Many dogs and cats love the taste of the toothpaste.

Watch the video: Training your pet to love having their teeth brushed!


How often does my pet need to have teeth cleaned by the veterinarian?

It depends on the degree of plaque and tartar accumulation. You need to examine your pet’s teeth monthly. Look for an accumulation of yellow or brown material at the area where the tooth meets the gumline especially over the cheek teeth and canines(fang tooth). Once you notice plaque or tartar accumulation, it is time for a professional pet teeth cleaning. Do not wait. Many pets will have a thin red line where the tooth meets the gumline. This is caused by inflammation from tartar and bacterial infection. If it is red, it is painful. Attached to the tartar are bacteria, which irritate gum tissues. When treated, the inflammation will resolve. When gingivitis is left untreated, it will progress to periodontitis, which is non-curable. The intervals between teeth cleaning procedures will depend on how often you can brush your pet’s teeth. Home maintenance is the most important factor in prolonging the interval between dental procedures.

Can I just take my fingernail or a dental scaler to remove the calculus?

Dental disease occurs below the gum line. By removing calculus from the tooth, you are not removing disease below the gum line. In order to thoroughly help your pet, plaque and calculus must be removed from below the gum line.

Do you have to use anesthesia to clean my pet’s teeth?

Anesthesia is necessary when performing teeth cleaning. Anesthesia provides three important functions: immobilization in order to clean below the gum line, pain control, and the ability to place a tube into the windpipe, so bacterial products do not enter the respiratory system.

I am concerned about the anesthesia. Is it safe?

We take every effort to provide safe anesthesia. We use gas anesthetic agents; dogs and cats are given pre-operative tests depending on their age and condition to qualify them for anesthesia; and patients are monitored while anesthetized both visibly and with similar monitoring devices as used in human hospitals. Our hospital prides itself in having a team approach to your pet’s dental procedure. A staff member is monitoring your pet before, during and after the dental procedure.

What is involved in the teeth cleaning at your hospital?

Each Oral Assessment, Treatment, and Prevention visit has twelve separate steps:

  1. general exam before anesthesia, pre-operative organ testing
  2. oral exam under anesthesia
  3. gross calculus removal
  4. subgingival (below the gumline) scaling
  5. tooth polishing
  6. irrigation
  7. fluoride / OraVet® application
  8. post cleaning exam and dental x-rays to evaluate the areas below the gum line
  9. dental charting to create a treatment plan
  10. therapy if necessary
  11. home care instructions
  12. follow up appointment to see how well you are performing home care

How much does a tooth cleaning procedure cost?

It is impossible to determine what the procedure will cost because we do not know the status of your pet’s teeth and gums, they are usually covered with tartar before we start the procedure. There are multiple levels of teeth cleanings at our pet hospital. Sometimes we discover the dog has damaged teeth from chewing hard bones. The Fees are based on severity plus costs for preoperative testing, anesthesia, necessary therapy, and medication. Fees for all dental services are available by e-mail or fax. The doctor or staff will provide an initial treatment plan based on exam room findings and a follow up treatment plan with fees after a tooth-by-tooth exam is conducted under anesthesia.

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