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FAQ: Dog Teeth Cleaning

Taking care of your dog’s teeth is critical to their health. While there are steps you can take at home to protect your dog’s dental health, nothing is as effective as regular teeth cleanings. Learn more about why it’s important, what it entails, and much more.

Why is dog dental health important?

A dog’s dental health is important for their overall health and well-being. 

Poor oral hygiene can contribute to the following: 

• Bad breath
• Excessive drooling
• Tooth decay
• Inflamed gums 
• Gum disease
• Trouble eating or loss of appetite
• Loss of teeth

Over time, these can develop and worsen, potentially causing fatal liver, heart, and kidney diseases in your pet.

How does dog dental cleaning work?

Veterinary offices often perform teeth cleanings for dogs, or you can schedule an appointment with a veterinary dental specialist. Barring any extensive problems or additional treatments needed, the whole process should take about an hour. 

First, anesthesia will be administered to ensure the vet can perform the work safely in your dog’s mouth and keep your pet free of pain. Your veterinarian should do a health check, and possibly blood work, to ensure your dog is healthy enough for sedation. 

Most veterinarians will also place an IV catheter to support blood pressure and organ health throughout the cleaning.

Using an ultrasonic scaler, the vet will remove larger deposits of plaque and tartar from the teeth, then using a hand scaler clean under the gum line and on all sides of teeth. Then, they will rinse your dog’s mouth, polish each tooth, and rinse again. Fluoride may be applied as well.

One thing to note: If you prefer to skip anesthesia, either to reduce costs or in concern over your pet’s health, certain veterinarians offer anesthesia-free, lighter cleanings. Just remember, the cleaning cannot be done as thoroughly without sedation, and depending on your dog’s size, breed, and temperament, it may not be possible.

How often should you get your dog’s teeth cleaned?

It’s recommended you get your dog’s teeth cleaned every six to 12 months as a preventative measure, and so you can identify potential problems before they become worse. However, certain dog breeds are more prone to oral issues and may require more frequent visits. On the other hand, regular and thorough dental care at home may buy you more time between cleanings. It’s important to speak to your veterinarian to get a professional recommendation. 

How much does a dog teeth cleaning cost?

Generally, the cost of a basic teeth cleaning will fall in the $200 to $300 range; however, the final cost will be determined by where you live, your dog’s age and size, and a number of other factors:

• Whether X-rays are needed (often required to identify any oral issues)
• Whether an extraction is needed
• Pre-dental examinations/diagnostics performed
• Number of staff required to perform the exam and cleaning
• Additional recovery time needed
• Follow-up care needed
• How your provider charges for services (by the tooth, by the specific treatment, by time)

If the veterinarian discovers a disease or another problem, they’ll recommend surgery or other treatment, which will incur additional costs. Certain pet insurance policies may reimburse you for expenses associated with teeth cleanings or dental procedures, or offer coverage as part of an add-on wellness package — it’s critical to check your policy and understand what is and is not covered before taking your dog in for his or her cleaning.

How can you maintain dental health between cleanings?

Taking actions to uphold your pet’s oral health will mean less extensive and costly work in the future. Help keep your dog healthy by practicing regular dental care at home, such as: 

• Brushing their teeth regularly (as frequently as possible)
• Feeding them nutritious dog food
• Providing adequate chew time/toys
• Asking your vet about oral rinses or mouthwash for your dog

Don’t have pet insurance? Check out available plans in your area on the Direct Benefits Marketplace