Professional Teeth Cleaning
Like in human dentistry, a professional dental cleaning is the only way to remove tartar from the teeth and under the gum tissue to protect your pet’s health. Good news: with a professional dental cleaning and follow-up care, gingivitis is reversible. Unfortunately, periodontal disease is not reversible, but diligent at-home dental care and regular veterinary cleanings can slow down the progression of the condition.
During a dental cleaning (sometimes called a prophylaxis), specialist remove plaque and tartar from a pet’s teeth, and assess the health of the entire mouth: tongue, gums and lips.
A proper dental cleaning is done under general anesthesia. Pre-anesthetic tests for blood work or kidney and liver function highly recommended, particularly for elderly pets. Anesthesia keeps your pet free of pain during the dental procedure and allows your veterinarian to fully inspect the teeth and remove tartar from under the gums. During anesthesia, a soft plastic tube is inserted into the trachea (the main airway in the throat) to support the patient’s breathing. Placement of the tracheal tube also prevents inhalation of bacteria that are aerosolized during the dental cleaning.
A dental cleaning may include:
- Inspection of the lips, tongue, and entire mouth for growths, wounds, or other problems
- Supragingival cleaning – the removal of plaque and tartar above the gum line
- Subgingival cleaning – the removal of plaque and tartar below the gum line
- Polishing – smoothes the surface of the tooth to remove any roughness left from scaling, as well as removes any plaque missed during the previous steps.
- Irrigation – the flushing of tooth pockets to remove dental debris from gum pockets
- Fluoride treatment – fluoride foam is applied to the teeth and allowed to harden. Fluoride helps harden the dentin, slow the growth of plaque, and decrease tooth sensitivity.
- Evaluation – teeth and oral cavity are examined with the use of a periodontal probe to determine the presence of possible periodontal disease. X-rays may be taken to help ascertain the degree of disease present.
- Charting – all findings and treatments given are recorded in the patient’s medical history.
A professional dental cleaning removes not only the visible plaque and tartar on the teeth surfaces but also the bacteria under the gums. This eliminates potential sources of infection to the mouth and other organs and protects your pet from pain and tooth loss. Depending on patient size, age, and the amount of dental disease present, the procedure usually takes anywhere between 45-90 minutes, or 60 to 120 minutes for elderly pets. It should be noted that dental prophylaxis is not a one-time fix-all solution and your pet may need to eventually return for another cleaning.
Scared about anesthesia? Read more about it.