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Dog Dental Cleaning: Essential Info You Need to Know

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Dog dental cleaning – what is it and do our dogs need it?

The short answer: Yes! Dogs absolutely need a lot of TLC when it comes to caring for their chompers.

This topic came up a few weeks ago when I noticed that Toby’s teeth were not quite as pearly white as they used to be.

I gently opened up his mouth and noticed that he had some seriously nasty plaque forming near his gumlines. My heart completely sunk. I pride myself on being an attentive pup parent, and here I had completely let his oral hygiene go!

It wasn’t for a lack of trying. When Toby was young I gave him doggy dental chews regularly, until one time when I switched to a different brand and he started yacking them up.

The hubby kiboshed the dental chew idea since Toby was having other tummy problems at the time and it made it far worse.

After this, I tried physically brushing his teeth, but Toby was going through a rebellious puppy stage, and at 90 pounds of pure muscle, he was extremely tough to wrangle. So I gave up. #majordogparentfail

And here I am today, dealing with major pup plaque and a bad case of guilt.

dog teeth at vet

But, unfortunately, this is common. Vetstreet reports that 85% of all pets have periodontal disease by age three. 

After all of this, I’m left wondering: Do I need professional dog dental cleaning at this point? We dug a little deeper to find out.

What is dog dental cleaning?

Dog dental cleaning is a procedure that is done by most veterinarians.

According to both Vetstreet and PetMD, general anesthesia is often used to help with the pain and, most importantly, allow the vets to do their jobs without resistance.

So in short, if you want a deep, thorough cleaning, your dog is going to be put under.

From there, the vet will start by removing visible plaque and tartar from the teeth. This is usually done with an ultrasonic scaler that vibrates at high speed. They also use a hand scaler to get under the gumline and on the sides of the tooth.

Next, the doc probes the dental sockets to evaluate for dental disease. Abnormally deep pockets = dental disease.

At this time, the vet may also order oral radiographs to check out the bone around the teeth.

Once all the gunk is removed, your dog’s mouth is rinsed and the tooth surfaces are polished.

Why the polish? Cleanings leave small etchings on the teeth that are susceptible to more plaque and tartar. The polishing process in dog dental cleaning helps smooth out these areas and keep the teeth healthy.

Also worth noting, the vet will do a thorough inspection of the entire mouth, including lips and tongue, to look for any concerning issues.

To get started, ask your vet if they offer this service. If not, find out if they know anyone who does. 

You can also ask for a recommendation from friends who live in the community.

dog with a toothbrush

How much does dog dental cleaning cost?

For a light cleaning without sedation, expect to pay about $200-$300, according to K9 of Mine.

A full dog dental cleaning with anesthesia and x-rays can run anywhere from $500-1,000 or even more, especially if tooth extractions are involved.

Before committing to any procedure, always get an estimate ahead of time so you’re not stuck with sticker shock.

How often should your pup have professional dog dental cleaning?

From what we’ve seen online, experts recommend getting your dog’s teeth professionally cleaned every six months to once a year.

But let’s be realistic. This procedure isn’t cheap. Especially if sedation is involved. Do you really have $2,000 to drop on dog dental cleaning alone every year?

At the same time, however, neglecting your dog’s dental hygiene will only cause health issues and major pain down the road for your poor pup, not to mention even bigger vet bills for you.

What’s a dog parent to do?

Luckily, there are many at-home fixes you can do regularly to keep your canine’s chompers in good shape and delay expensive procedures.

What can you do at home?

Taking care of your dog’s teeth at home doesn’t cost much, but it does require a bit of time and effort from you.

The benefit is that it delays dog dental cleaning and keeps your dog’s mouth and teeth in good shape.

Brush their teeth

Today there are many great options out there for dog toothbrushes and toothpaste.

It’s OK to use a human toothbrush in place of a pet version but always, always use pet-specific toothpaste. Why? Most human toothpastes include fluoride, an extremely poisonous chemical for dogs.

Like I mentioned before, Toby initially resisted toothbrushing sessions with the passion of a thousand burning suns. But after doing some research, I’ve found that the following really helps.

  • Brush your dog’s teeth when they’re tired. They’ll have less energy to resist.
  • Start slowly. Don’t go for the full brush right away. Just do a few teeth so they get used to the process.
  • Have treats on hand. This will entice your pup to sit still. After the session is over, reward them with a tasty treat so they have a positive connotation with the experience.
  • Provide positive reinforcement. Use a soothing voice and reassure your dog it will be OK.
toby dog getting his teeth brushed

Toby is now quite OK with us brushing his teeth! The only downside is that he loves to lick the toothpaste, which makes the whole process take longer, but hey, if that’s the worst thing that happens, I’m fine.

> Check out dog toothbrushes and toothpaste

Dog dental chews 

greenies treats

Feeding your pup dog dental chews is a very easy way to keep their chompers in good shape.

These snacks clean teeth, freshen breath and reduce plaque and tartar build-up – all good stuff that can help prevent the need for dog dental cleaning.

Best of all, dogs love treats, so they won’t resist these like other methods.

> Check out dog dental chews

Tartar remover tools

Dog Dental Cleaning tools

If your dog has a bunch of build-up but you don’t have hundreds of dollars to spend on dog dental cleaning professionally, another option is to buy a tartar remover kit and try to take off what you can yourself.

This is probably the most challenging at-home option since you’ll have to both get your dog to sit and stay still and navigate the tools into their mouth and scrape off the tartar in the right areas. But if you have a mellow dog that doesn’t mind, go for it.

> Check out tartar remover tools

Dog Dental Cleaning
Liquid plaque and tartar remover

Another easy way to keep your dog’s chompers in check is with liquid plaque and tartar remover.

You mix the solution with water and let your dog drink it like they would with straight water.

The solution is proven to reduce plaque and control tartar all while making your dog’s breath minty fresh.

> Check out liquid plaque and tartar remover

Medicated dental wipes

dog dental wipes

You learn something new every day. We didn’t know until researching this article that medicated dental wipes exist for dogs.

What a brilliant idea!

I certainly wish we would have known about this back in the day for Toby.

Apparently, you rub the wipe over a dog’s teeth and this helps clean teeth, reduce plaque build-up and freshen breath. Although probably not as thorough, this is much quicker and easier than brushing with toothpaste.

Check out medicated dog dental wipes

Right now we are looking at professional dog dental cleaning to get Toby’s teeth back on track. In the meantime, as well as the foreseeable future, we will both brush Toby’s teeth and use medicated dog wipes to keep his teeth in the best health possible.

Do you need dog dental cleaning for your pup? That’s totally up to you, but at the very least, consider one of the at-home options above. The result is a healthy and happy dog.

Check out more articles about: Health & Nutrition

1 Comment

  1. Jill McGrath

    I am in the exact situation you are with my dogs teeth, I started with a liquid addative to his water, and for the past week and a half have been using the tooth wipes, hopefully we will be graduating to a toothbrush SOON. Thank you for your article.

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