Dental health is just as important for your dog as it is for you. Without proper dental care, your canine friend can suffer from gum disease, loss of teeth, organ infection and poor quality of life. You can help prevent these serious problems through routine teeth brushing and oral rinses, but you should also schedule professional cleanings as often as your veterinarian recommends, which will depend on your dog’s age and his teeth's condition.
During your dog’s yearly checkup, your veterinarian will examine his teeth and check for plaque, gum disease or other dental problems. Or if you notice your furry friend pawing at his mouth or refusing to eat, or if you see red or swollen gums when looking in his mouth, you should get in touch with your vet. If he deems it necessary, he will schedule an appointment for a dental cleaning and any other dental procedures that may be needed.
When a dog needs a dental cleaning, your vet will use the same basic tools and procedures as your dentist uses on you -- except that your dog doesn’t understand what’s happening and that he has to hold still. That’s why most veterinarians will use anesthesia to perform the teeth cleaning. The anesthesia serves several purposes: It relieves your pup’s anxiety; it makes it easy for the doctor to keep the mouth open and access all areas of the mouth; and it allows the vet to do an in-depth check for other problems that might go unnoticed until they become more serious.
Prepping for Cleaning
Depending on your dog's age and condition, your vet may do blood work to determine whether he’s healthy enough to have anesthesia. The morning of the procedure, you’ll bring your dog to the clinic after fasting him from midnight the night before. First the doctor will give your dog a pre-anesthetic to calm him. At this point the doctor might opt to take radiographs to determine whether other problems need to be addressed. Then he’ll administer a general anesthetic, and insert an endotracheal tube down your pup’s throat to establish an airway and a means to deliver the gas anesthetic during the procedure. A technician or anesthesiologist will monitor your dog to maintain the lowest level of sedation while making sure the procedure is as painless as possible.
Your veterinarian will use an ultrasonic instrument to scale or remove the plaque and tartar from your dog’s teeth. Then he will use a buffing tool to polish the teeth. While your dog is sedated, the vet will check for other problems and perhaps perform other work such as extractions or root canals. Unless complications occur, you can usually pick up your dog that afternoon.
By Gayle Rodcay
About the Author
With a Bachelor of Arts in technical communications from Colorado State University, Gayle Rodcay has spent over 18 years editing and writing for various technical publications. In 2009, she launched a freelance writing career. Before embarking on her writing career, Rodcay was a certified veterinary technician and uses her animal and health knowledge in her freelance writing efforts.