Did you know that it is recommended that your dog receive daily toothbrushing and a comprehensive dental cleaning at least once a year, ideally twice yearly? A Comprehensive Oral Health Analysis and Treatment (COHAT or commonly referred to as a Dental Cleaning) allows your veterinarian to take an indepth look at your pet’s oral health which can only be done while under anesthesia. During these dog teeth cleaning procedures your veterinarian looks closely at the health of your pet’s teeth above and below the gumline, with the use of dental radiographs to assess the health of the root, as well as perform an in depth scaling and polishing of your dog’s entire mouth. Daily oral care and yearly dental procedures can help prevent progressive dental disease which can lead to tooth extractions if the issues have become severe.

How can I care for my dog's teeth at home?

Steps can be taken easily at home to prevent or slow the progression of dental disease. It is always best to start these things early. When you have a pet that has a healthy mouth to begin with, which is generally seen in young dogs, the best thing to do is to get started with daily teeth brushing. Just like in people, plaque and germs build up in your dog’s mouth as the day goes on and daily brushing helps to remove this plaque, which when allowed to build up overtime can become cement-like and difficult to remove, as well as leading to other complications. 

A good place to start if you are not already performing daily brushing is to get them used to teeth brushing. This can be a process but here is a helpful video from the Fear Free website to help get you started. Other helpful things are dental chews.

One of the ones we like at Summer Creek Animal Clinic is called OraVet. It's a dental chew that has a brushing action as your dog chews on it, but it also releases a plaque repellent so that, as they chew on it, the saliva carries the plaque repellent over all of their teeth. It's not near as good as brushing, but it is a place to start. Another thing you could look at is a healthy mouth water additive. This is a very passive way of helping to reduce plaque buildup, although water additives will be less effective in general. If you use water additives, make sure it's the brand Healthy Mouth, as this is proven safe for pets.

Dr. Shawn McCorkle
Summer Creek Animal Clinic

What are some signs and symptoms of dental disease in dogs?

Even with all of these preventatives being done at home, or if you haven’t yet started them, a dental procedure, or dog teeth cleaning, will still be needed for your pet. There are many things you can look for at home to see if your pet is in need of a dental procedure. The most common thing that we experience in dogs, or the most common thing that you as a pet owner experience, is bad breath. Oftentimes pet owners think it's normal for their dogs to have stinky breath, but bad breath is one of the common signs of periodontal disease or infection in the gum tissue, and an indicator that your dog is in need of a comprehensive teeth cleaning. This bad breath is essentially brought on by a buildup of plaque and tartar. Plaque and tartar are essentially made up of billions of bacteria, and once that bacteria gets under the gum line it causes infection and inflammation. It is that infection and inflammation that you are smelling as bad breath. The worse that the disease progresses, the worse the breath tends to get. A well check and oral exam with your veterinarian can help determine the presence and severity of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease, or gum disease, is not the only dental related issue that can affect dogs.

What are some of the common dental diseases in dogs?

While periodontal disease is not the only dental disease that can afflict dogs, it is the most common. Because plaque and tartar are always building up and getting under the gum line, 85% of dogs by the age of three will have some form of gum disease, it is incredibly prevalent. Another common thing we see in dogs, especially in heavy chewers, is broken teeth. Pet owners don’t always realize their dog has a broken tooth because dogs don’t typically show signs. While dogs don’t typically show signs of having a broken tooth, it is important to identify broken teeth early because broken teeth are painful. Once a broken tooth is identified a plan to treat the painful teeth can be created with your veterinarian.

Other things we see, for example, in smushed faced dogs (such as English Bulldogs, Pugs, and other similar breeds) tend to get impacted teeth that can lead to cysts under the gum line. These can be problematic and are an issue that we cannot diagnose without dental radiographs. These are just a few of the common issues that can indicate your dog is in need of a dental procedure.

What is professional dental cleaning like for a dog?

Professional dental procedures, or COHATs are performed under anesthesia to allow your veterinarian to thoroughly evaluate the mouth. When an oral exam is done on a pet that's awake they can see quite a bit, but it is still very limited regarding what is ultimately going on in the mouth. To properly evaluate the mouth and effectively treat any disease with a dog teeth cleaning, your dog must be under anesthesia to get full mouth dental radiographs. These are critical to correctly diagnosing dental disease. Being under anesthesia is also vital to providing any sort of treatment necessary.

Once radiographs are done, each individual tooth is assessed, and your veterinarian thoroughly evaluates your dog's mouth. This is done to assess the progression of periodontal disease if any is present. Your veterinarian also assesses your dog’s mouth for any broken teeth or abnormalities, and creates a plan for treatment before progressing with the scaling and polishing.

Summer Creek Animal Clinic has really great email resources that we share with clients when we discuss dental procedure recommendations. If you think your pet is in need of a dental cleaning procedure contact our clinic to schedule an exam today. You can also watch this video or read below for some commonly asked questions about dentals.

Dog Dentistry/Dental - FAQs

Dr. Shawn McCorkle
Summer Creek Animal Clinic

How do I know if my dog needs a dental exam?

There are many indicators that your dog may be in need of a dog teeth cleaning. Bi-annual wellness exams allow for early intervention and help determine if your dog is in need of a dental procedure before dental disease progresses further. You can watch for some signs at home as well. One of the most common things owners notice at home is bad breath. Other things to look for are if your dog is dropping their food, if they're eating slower than they typically used to, or if they're not eating as much. Another sign could be if they shy away from someone touching them near their mouth or around their head—any changes like these could be an indication that your dog needs dental care.

How often does my dog need a dental exam?

The general recommendation for base oral exams for dogs is biannual, or twice-a-yearly exams. Having your dog's mouth evaluated twice a year is usually a good place to start unless they're prone to breaking their teeth or other chronic dental issues. On top of the bi-annual exam, it is also recommended to have a dental procedure once yearly.

Will my dog be getting dental x-rays?

Yes, when a dental procedure or teeth cleaning is done at Summer Creek Animal Clinic dental radiographs are a critical component of us evaluating the mouth. What is going on under the gum line cannot be seen without dental radiographs, and most disease happens under the gum line. Dental radiographs are critical to be able to appropriately address any infection, inflammation, and underlying causes of pain in your dog's mouth. That cannot be done thoroughly without the radiographs.

How long does a dog dental cleaning appointment take?

The time necessary for a dog teeth cleaning varies based on the level of disease present. In general, a good dental cleaning procedure—including anesthesia, the dental radiographs, a thorough oral exam under anesthesia with probing, and then a thorough cleaning—is going to take 45 minutes to an hour. However, when there is additional work that needs to be done or extractions in the case of significant disease, that time can vary.

If my dog does need extractions, will they be given pain medications?

Yes, absolutely. Dental procedures, whether extractions are done or not, can cause discomfort. At Summer Creek Animal Clinic, we always treat with pain meds to ensure your dog’s highest level of comfort. Providing pain meds at the start of the procedure your dog would be given pain medications to prevent any pain or discomfort caused by the scaling and polishing. If there are any extractions or other services done, that may be painful postoperatively, everything in your dog’s mouth would be numbed prior to proceeding to ensure their comfort when they wake up from their anesthesia. We also send home anti-inflammatories at the very least and sometimes additional pain medications. At Summer Creek Animal Clinic pain control is very important to us, and our goal is to always ensure your pet is comfortable before, during, and after any surgical procedure.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (817) 523-1139, submit a request on our website, or via email.