Pictured: Vet tech performing a dental cleaning on dog
Teeth cleaning is critical part of your dog’s health care regimen. Just like humans, dogs need to have their teeth and gums taken care of both at home and by a veterinarian.
Dogs that don’t receive proper teeth cleaning are susceptible to periodontal disease among other issues. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 80% of dogs get some form of dental disease by age three.
Regular brushing and dental exams are keys to maintaining good oral health. Dental problems can cause issues for your dog so prevention and early detection are paramount.
There are two ways to take care of your dog’s teeth: care at home and annual exams.
Care at Home
Regularly brushing your dog’s teeth is the single most effective thing you can do to prevent plaque and tartar build up. Daily brushing is ideal, but it’s not always possible so brushing several times a week is still effective. Most dogs will accept brushing but it may take some time for them to get comfortable with it.
Brushing your dog’s teeth is important, but your pooch should also have an annual exam at the vet as well. A standard dental exam includes three key steps that are all critical for optimal canine oral health.
Annual check-ups should be performed by a veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary dentist. Subject to state or provincial regulation, veterinary technicians are allowed to perform certain dental procedures under the supervision of a veterinarian.
There are three major steps in your dog’s annual dental check-ups.
1. Visual Exam
The annual exam begins with a visual exam of your dog’s mouth by a veterinarian or licensed vet tech. During this step your veterinarian will manually evaluate your dog’s dental health and compare current findings to historical veterinary records.
It’s a simple step, but to a trained professional an essential part of evaluating your dog’s dental hygiene. Breath, appearance, coloration and many other factors come in to play here.
Radiographs (x-rays) should always be requested during your dog’s exam in order to evaluate the health of the jaw and the tooth roots below the gum line. Your dog needs to be very still in order to get good images, and this is unlikely without heavy sedation or anesthesia. The good news is that in order to have a successful dental cleaning, anesthesia is necessary anyway.
Note: X-rays cost an additional $150 to $200 per exam, but we highly recommend them.
Pictured: Dog getting radiographs at his vet’s office
3. Dental Cleaning
Because most dental disease occurs below the gum line, where you can’t see it, a thorough dental cleaning and evaluation are performed under anesthesia. Because most dental disease occurs below the gum line, where you can’t see it, a thorough dental cleaning and evaluation are performed under anesthesia. Dental cleaning includes scaling (to remove dental plaque and tartar) and polishing, similar to the process used on your own teeth during your regular dental cleanings.
Anesthesia makes it possible to perform the dental procedures with less stress and pain for your pet.
In addition, anesthesia allows for a better cleaning because your pet is not moving around and risking injury from the dental equipment. Although anesthesia will always have risks, it’s safer now than ever and continues to improve so that the risks are very low and are far outweighed by the benefits. Most dogs can go home the same day of the procedure, although they might seem a little groggy for the rest of the day.
Pictured: Veterinarian cleaning a dog’s molars
Cost of Treatment
Costs can vary significantly with the region of the country you live. Prices range from around $250 up to $1,000. However, these prices do not include oral radiographs, which could add $150 to $200 more. We strongly recommend that you get radiographs during your dog’s check-up to ensure there are no underlying issues that are missed with a basic oral exam.
Related Health Issues
Poor dental health care can lead to expensive, life-altering health issues for your dog. The most common dental health issue in dogs is periodontal disease.
- Up to 80% of dogs over three have periodontal disease
- Plaque and Tartar
- Bad Breath
Pet insurance doesn’t cover regular teeth cleanings, only dental problems that result from accidents. However, pet wellness plans will pay for annual dental care for your dog. Getting your dog’s teeth cleaned will cost $250 to $1,000 each time. The reason teeth cleaning is so expensive is they have to put dogs under anesthesia in order to clean out the plaque.