Dental Cleanings for Your Pet
SPCA Florida's Medical Center offers high-quality, low-cost dental treatments. This page has collected answers to some of the most common questions to our veterinarians.
Four out of five dogs over the age of three have periodontal disease. Dogs and cats frequently build up tartar and plaque on their teeth. This is not only unsightly - it harbors dangerous bacteria that can enter the bloodstream and damage organs, leading to chronic health conditions. Oral care is critical to your pet's health.
Common Questions and Answers
Q: Why does my dog have such bad breath?
A: Dogs can build up tartar and have gum disease just like people do. Over time, this tartar builds up on the teeth and traps bacteria, leading to inflamed gums and bad breath. At home, care such as daily dental chews and brushing teeth can help slow the progression of dental disease.
Q: How often should my pet have a dental cleaning?
A: Ideally dogs and cats should have at least an annual full dental scaling and polishing. This allows us to use an ultrasonic scaler to fully remove all the tartar that has cemented on the teeth, and allows us to perform dental x-rays to check for disease below the gumline that would not otherwise be visible. Yearly dentals will help slow the progression of dental disease.
Q: Does my pet need to go under anesthesia?
A: Yes, we need to place your pet under anesthesia for the dental cleaning, otherwise we would not be able to fully scale all of the teeth or get the dental x-rays. Unfortunately, dogs and cats are not always very cooperative about letting us check their mouth, and we would be unable to do our best job without it.
Q: Does my pet need blood work before going under anesthesia?
A: All pets should have blood work prior to going under anesthesia. This allows us to get a better idea of what is going on internally, and to make sure that your pet is healthy and able to process all of the anesthetic drugs appropriately.
Q: Why does my dog have loose teeth?
A: Dogs can have loose teeth for a couple of reasons. The most common cause is due to bone loss around the roots of the tooth, which allows to tooth to move inappropriately. Sometimes dogs and cats can also break a tooth under the gumline, which allows the top part of the tooth visible above the gum (the crown) to move, even if the roots are stable. In both cases the tooth should be extracted to prevent potential infection and remove the source of pain.
Q: Do the teeth need to be extracted? Will my pet be able to eat without them?
A: If it has gotten to the point where the tooth is loose, has root exposure, is infected, or is otherwise deemed necessary for extraction, then yes, it is better to pull the tooth out. Your pet will feel much better having the tooth out than in, where it will continue to cause pain. Pets need to be on soft food following the extractions, but then the majority of them (depending on the extractions done) are able to go back to a normal diet.
Q: My pet is still eating. How do I know if the tooth is painful?
A: If there is advanced dental disease, the tooth is most likely painful. Unfortunately, sometimes we do not know how advanced the dental disease is until we are able completely examine your pet’s oral health (by taking x-rays and removing all of the tartar). Pets can be very stoic about pain, and just like people, they do not tend to go off of their food over tooth pain. They may chew on one side of the mouth or prefer wet food over dry food, but they may not show obvious signs of pain. This is why it is important to keep up with yearly dentals, so that dental disease can be monitored and addressed as needed.
Q: What can I expect when my pet is dropped off for a dental?
A: If you are bringing your pet in to us for a dental, your pet will be dropped off early in the morning and will be ready to go home in the later afternoon. When your pet is dropped off we will perform a physical exam and check blood work to ensure your pet is healthy and able to undergo anesthesia. Your pet will receive a premedication to help ready them for surgery, as well as an intravenous catheter that will allow us to administer medications and fluids during the dental procedure itself. All the teeth will be scaled and fully polished, and we will take full mouth x-rays. Extractions will be done as needed. After your pet's procedure is finished, we will continue to monitor them for a couple of hours to make sure they are fully recovered from the anesthesia before going home. Your pet may go home with medications, including antibiotics and pain medication.
Don't hesitate to call us at 863-646-7722 for more information and to make your appointment!
These photos are of a dog with some tartan build-up and gingivitis. This dog came in before the disease progressed too far, and only needed the teeth scaled and polished.
This is a dog with severe periodontal disease. The patient had heavy tartar buildup, covering most of the teeth. In the second picture the teeth have been scaled and we can see the extent of the dental disease with bone loss, gum recession, and tooth root exposure. Those teeth are painful to the dog and were extracted, with the final results in picture three.