Why Does My Pet Need a “Dental”?

“Who ever heard of doing an entire dental for your pet?”

“It is hard enough to get yourself to the dentist’s office, and we never used to have to bring animals in for dental procedures!”

“This is just a scam for more money.”

These are just some of the things you have probably heard or thought, so let’s sit down and have a conversation about pet dental procedures, what they entail, and why they are important for the health of your best friend with fur.

Let’s Start with the Why

Why is it that now it seems the veterinarians always want to bring up doing a dental? Why do I need it now, but previously no one really mentioned dental work on pets? The simple answer to this is simply that medicine is always changing and improving. The best reason I can give you is that it is one of the best ways to make sure our furry friends are healthy and happy.

Most adult animals will have periodontal disease by the age of 2 or 3. Humans would as well, but we started human dental hygiene to improve our own quality of life. We started brushing our teeth and having regular dental checkups, and now it is a regular thing. It is the same idea with your furry friends. They cannot brush their teeth on their own so having us brush their teeth or using dental food is a great way to try and prevent periodontal disease! We will talk more about periodontal disease in a later post.

Bacteria and Dental Disease in Pets

If enough plaque and tarter build up on our pet’s teeth it will change the pH balance in your pet’s mouth. This change can cause bacteria to grow and cause infections. These bacteria will be under the gum line (aka sublingual) so it can’t be seen with the naked eye. If this bacterium is left there long enough and unnoticed, it will mean that there is potential for bone loss and destruction causing tooth loss and systemic disease and it will affect the entire body instead of just the mouth.

Cats in particular are one of the most overlooked for dental disease. However, cats have many problems, such as tooth reabsorption, stomitis, oral cancer, tooth fractures, and more.

How Can I Prevent the Need for Dental Procedures?

Dentals are expensive. That is why we like doing preventatives as much as possible! Making sure you can brush your pets’ teeth, giving them dental food to chew on, and making sure they have the right toys that will not harm their teeth are very important in preventing the need for dental work. Preventative products can be found at Veterinary Oral Health Council.

My Pet Needs a Dental. What Happens Next?

If you and your veterinarian decide that a dental is a good route to take, this is what you can expect and what should be included.

All dentals should be done under general anesthesia. This allows for proper tooth-by-tooth examinations and dental radiographs. Then the veterinarian or veterinary technician will start by probing each tooth to check for pocket depth. 1-2mm pockets would be normal, but anything larger can create a home for bacteria to live sublingually. This will be recorded in a dental chart. Then the amount of tarter, plaque, and other abnormalities will be recorded in the dental chart. After the oral exam, there should be full mouth radiographs to assess each tooth below the gum line to look for any non-obvious problems. This will help your veterinarian decide what steps will need to be done next. If it is necessary to extract any teeth, a local block will then be applied and problematic teeth will be removed by your veterinarian. Once this step is completed, the veterinarian or veterinary technician will then begin to scale and polish the teeth. Scaling will remove any remaining tarter or plaque, and polishing will fill in any marks made by the scaler.

This is the basic dental procedure, but what if you don’t want to extract the teeth or your pet needs advanced dental procedures that your regular veterinarian can not do? There are many veterinarians that have taken extra courses to help their dental patients and written exams to become dental specialists. This means if it is needed, you can be referred for more advanced dental work, including root canals, braces, crowns, caps, periodontal surgery, and more! However, if this service is required, it can take a long time for this referral, and you may have to travel.

The bottom line: pet dental hygiene is just as important as our own. I am sure everyone knows what tooth pain feels like, and our furry friends don’t like it any more than we do. Preventatives are always cheaper than surgery, so do as much as you can to help them.


Dental Care and What to Expect Practical Dental Care Tips for Dogs and Cats Dental Care in Cats
Periodontal Disease in Pets

Written by: Ashley, VT