Canine Dental Cleaning

by Ella Miller
Keep Max smiling with routine dental checkups no less than once a year.

Keep Max smiling with routine dental checkups no less than once a year.

Kane Skennar/Photodisc/Getty Images

Thanks to Mother Nature, dogs generally aren't at risk for cavities like you are. But that doesn't mean their teeth need no care at all. Healthy teeth and gums are important for dogs' overall health. They require that you perform a little hands-on-mouth routine care between visits to the vet for his periodic doggie dental cleaning.

Doggie Dental Cleaning Basics

Your buddy needs to see his veterinarian, on average, every six months to once a year. At each appointment, the vet will look over his teeth. Though it won't always be necessary every year, some veterinarians may recommend a dental cleaning every year or every six months if your dog is prone to a lot of plaque buildup. When you take your dog to the veterinarian for a dental cleaning, he may be sedated during the process. This allows the dental hygienist to thoroughly clean his teeth; many dogs just can't tolerate all of that scraping going on inside their mouths. The American Veterinary Dental College recommends anesthesia during a dental cleaning, because it allows for thorough scaling of the teeth and an opportunity to take radiographs.

Removal of Plaque

Though we can help our best buddies by brushing their teeth at home, simple brushing won't remove plaque and tartar buildup, which contribute to periodontal disease. Plaque and tartar can lead to other health problems such as heart, liver and kidney disease. During a dental cleaning, a veterinarian removes plaque by using a hand scaler and an ultrasonic scaler. Following this, teeth are polished to prevent future plaque and tartar buildup, leaving his chops nice and smooth. A thorough rinsing completes the cleaning. Some veterinarians may apply a plaque-preventive substance to complete the cleaning.

Home Care

In between veterinary dental cleanings, you can help your dog maintain the health of his teeth and gums at home. A variety of doggie brushes are available at pet retailers, but a simple soft-bristle human toothbrush will do the job along with a toothpaste formulated with dogs in mind. It is extremely important not to use regular human toothpaste, as fluoride is poisonous to dogs. Your dog may not like this teeth brushing business, so don't force it if he objects. Try to gently brush his teeth for a few seconds at first. As he becomes more accustomed to this, try increasing the length of time. Work in gentle, circular motions.

Doggie Dental Concerns

It's a good idea to look at your dog's teeth at least once a week to ensure his dental health. Extremely bad breath and a change in eating habits can signal a problem. If your dog starts pawing at his mouth or drooling, or if you notice red, bleeding or swollen gums, a trip to the veterinarian is in order. Tartar will appear to be a yellow-brown color. If you notice it around his gum line, inform your dog's veterinarian. Broken, cracked and missing teeth signal the need for a trip to the veterinarian.

Photo Credits

  • Kane Skennar/Photodisc/Getty Images

About the Author

Ella Miller has been writing for health, beauty and animal health/welfare publications for more than six years. She has firsthand experience volunteering with animal rescue nonprofit organizations. Miller studies journalism with a minor in animal science at Middle Tennessee State University. She is also a licensed cosmetologist.

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