Reasons Why Dogs Need Teeth Cleaning

Your dog’s dental health may be more important than you think, because dental problems can be a sign of disease, or can be the initial cause of disease. It’s always a good idea to have regular wellness check-ups where your veterinarian will conduct a thorough oral examination, checking teeth, gums, and mouth. If your veterinarian finds that your dog has inflamed gums, gingivitis, and dental tartar and plaque, a teeth cleaning may be recommended. Call the Animal Medical Center of Chandler at (480) 339-0406 to make a dental appointment today.

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What happens during teeth cleaning?

Veterinary dentistry includes the cleaning, adjustment, scaling, extraction, or repair of your pets’ teeth and other aspects of oral health care. Dental procedures should always be performed by a licensed veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary dentist. Depending on the state or country, veterinary technicians/nurses are allowed to perform certain dental procedures under the direct supervision of a veterinarian.

A pet dental visit starts with a thorough oral exam of your pet’s mouth by a veterinarian. Imaging might be done to examine the health of your pet’s jaw and tooth roots below the gumline. Most periodontal disease occurs below the gum line, where you can’t see it, so radiographs are useful for detecting these issues. Also, a thorough teeth cleaning and evaluation should be performed under general anesthesia because chances are, your pet won’t sit still for a scaling and cleaning. A dental cleaning includes scaling with an ultrasonic scaler that removes dental plaque and tartar and polishing.  This process is much the same when your dental hygienist cleans your teeth.

What are some signs of dental issues in dogs?

Your pet’s teeth should be checked at least once a year by your veterinarian in Chandler. That way your veterinarian can detect any possible signs of impending dental issues.

If you notice the following signs in your dog, call your veterinarian in Chandler, and make an appointment.

  • Innappetance or reluctance to eat.
  • Bad breath.
  • Extra teeth or retained baby teeth.
  • Broken, loose, or wiggly teeth.
  • A painful mouth.
  • Swelling around the mouth and below the eye.
  • Bleeding from the mouth.
  • Discolored teeth.
  • Heavy tartar and cement-like deposits on teeth.
  • Excessive drooling, dropping food.
  • Changes in behavior, irritability.

What causes dental problem in dogs?

The causes of dental problems in dogs are similar to causes seen in humans.

  • Periodontal and gum disease.
  • Broken teeth, broken tooth roots.
  • Cysts, tumors or growths in the mouth.
  • Dental abscesses.
  • Palate defects such as cleft palates (more prevalent in short-nosed breeds).
  • Malocclusion, or a misalignment of the upper and lower jaws.
  • Jaw or maxillary fractures.
  • Excess tartar buildup.

Periodontal disease

The most common cause of dental problems in dogs is periodontal disease, which can emerge as early as three years of age. Early detection and treatment are important because untreated periodontal disease can lead to severe health problems for your dog down the road, such as kidney, liver, and heart issues. 

Periodontal disease starts when dental plaque hardens into tartar. Plaque consists of sticky deposits on the teeth that are created by bacteria.  Tartar is the cement-like looking material that hardens on the surface of the tooth, visible just above the gumline.  Plaque and tartar that rest below the gumline are damaging and can set your dog up for infection, and resorption of alveolar bone (the type of bone found in the upper and lower jaws).  Plaque build-up can also affect the tissues that connect the teeth to the jawbones.

Veterinarians grade periodontal disease on a scale of 0 (normal) to 4 (severe). 

  • Grade 0 means no plaque or gingivitis
  • Grade 1 means mild gingivitis and plaque
  • Grade 2 means mild to moderate tartar and gingivitis
  • Grade 3 means heavy tartar and periodontal disease, with some bone loss in the surrounding jaw bone. Tooth fractures may be present, so dental radiographs are often recommended for these cases
  • Grade 4 periodontal disease means severe tartar, periodontal disease, possibly loose teeth, fractured teeth, and oral pain.

In addition to causing damage and infection to your dog’s mouth, periodontal disease can also cause widespread damage to your pet’s body and internal organs if not treated. For example, one of the more sinister side-effects of advanced periodontal disease is endocarditis, where bacteria from the mouth enter the bloodstream, and lodges in the valves of the heart, in turn causing inflammation and heart damage. Bacteria in the bloodstream can also damage the membranes of the kidneys, causing them to malfunction. Also, oral bacteria can infiltrate the liver, and cause liver damage (1). This is why it’s important to schedule regular exams with your veterinarian so that you can avoid serious health issues down the road.

How is periodontal disease treated?

The best treatment for periodontal disease in your dog involves a thorough dental cleaning, scaling, and polishing. Dental radiographs may be recommended as well. Radiographs are especially helpful when evaluating your dog’s dental health as they can detect possible problems not visible to the naked eye.  Even though you may be diligent in brushing your dog’s teeth, and promoting good dental health by offering dental chews, chances are you’ll have to schedule a dental cleaning with your veterinarian at some point. 

What happens when my dog has a dental cleaning?

As most dental procedures are performed under anesthesia, your veterinarian will be sure to conduct a thorough physical examination before anesthesia. Depending on several factors, and the age and health of your dog, your veterinarian may recommend blood work before the procedure to ensure that your dog’s liver and kidneys can adequately process anesthetic agents. If the blood work is good, and any other diagnostics are normal, then your dog will be ready for a dental cleaning. The process usually entails the placement of an IV (intravenous) catheter, IV fluids, a pre-anesthetic dose to help your animal relax, and then the induction period when your dog is placed under anesthesia. 

Just as with humans undergoing general anesthesia, your veterinarian will closely monitor vital signs such as blood pressure, oxygen saturation, heart function, body temperature, and other cardio-respiratory values. Your veterinarian will conduct a thorough oral exam, just as a human dentist would, and may also take mouth radiographs. After the procedure, your veterinarian will “wake up” your dog, place him in recovery where post-procedure vitals are monitored. Most veterinarians do their dental procedures in the morning and send their patients home at the end of the day.

Regular exams with your veterinarian are crucial in keeping your dog healthy and happy, and this includes regular dental exams and cleanings as well. If you have any questions about dental procedures in your dog, call Animal Medical Center of Chandler at (480) 339-0406.