It’s time to talk about a foul topic. Your dog’s dirty mouth. It smells. And there may be some small creatures living in there. The vet says sweet, fragile Bella needs a dental cleaning, which is under anesthesia (scary!), and that she may need to have some teeth taken out (gasp!). This can all come as quite a shock, so let’s think about all this a bit more.
Question 1: How often do you brush your teeth? Twice per day? (once when you’re being lazy, it’s okay to admit it, we won’t even talk about flossing).
Question 2: How often does Bella brush her teeth? Once a year? Never?
Question 3: Do you think if you chewed on some bones every now and then, it would be just as good as brushing daily? Maybe? (depends on your standards of clean).
Question 4: How often do you go to the dentist for a routine cleaning and checkup? Ideally every 6 months, right?
But does it really require anesthesia?
Once you see that hard, brown plaque starts to take over an entire tooth, a full dental cleaning or scaling and polishing is probably needed. It’s hard to tell exactly how healthy, or unhealthy, a tooth is under the plaque and under the gum line. Anesthesia is needed so that each tooth can be thoroughly cleaned, examined, and polished. This also allows for proper x-rays to make sure the whole tooth is healthy - it’s no good making the outside of the tooth look pretty if beneath the gum line it’s rotting away. Also, extractions can be a dog or cat’s best friend. There are of course risks with anesthesia and extractions, so if you have questions, be sure to talk with your vet about your concerns. Typically, once these guys wake up from their anesthesia, even after taking out lots of teeth, they are very comfortable and happy to eat.
What about those awake dental cleanings? Aren’t they just as good? Well, they’re not really all that great. Scaling can take off all those big, ugly chunks of plaque, but scaling also makes small scratches on the surface of the tooth (the enamel). This creates all kinds of nooks and crannies for bacteria to adhere to and form even more plaque! Kind of the opposite of what we were going for there. That’s why polishing is the bee's knees. It helps smooth out all those teeny, tiny scratches, and what gives you that glorious, smooth feeling when you leave your dentist’s office.
Let’s be realistic now, how often does Bella really need her teeth cleaned? Well that depends, every dog is a little different. Diet can certainly play a role, but genetics is a big factor. Yorkies, chihuahuas, greyhounds, and other smushed faced breeds are more prone to dental disease - some need dental every 6 - 12 months. Talk with your vet about what is the best plan for you and you're fluffy.
Daily tooth brushing, yes that says DAILY, is the best way to keep plaque at bay and keep those pearly whites sparkling, shining, and healthy, or at least keep their mouths smelling better than a dumpster.
Veterinary Prophylactic Dental Cleaning: