Vet cleanings involve more than floss and fluoride
In a 2010 study by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association (APPMA), about 25 percent of dog owners had purchased dental products within the past year. While 32 percent of dog owners said they brushed their pets’ teeth, most did so only a few times a year — not enough to truly make an impact. Over time, that tartar buildup requires professional care at the veterinarian’s office. Your vet will begin by assessing the degree of gum disease, ranging from stage 1 through stage 4, before scheduling a cleaning.
At stage 1, you may notice some tartar or plaque buildup. Stage 2 indicates tartar, plaque buildup and severe gingivitis, along with bleeding and inflammation along the gum line. At stage 3, there may be gingival recession, but the effects of periodontal disease may still be reversible. At stage 4, pets suffer from severe gingival recession, root exposure, mobile teeth and even tooth loss. The price difference between a stage 1 cleaning and a stage 4 cleaning can be $1,000 or more.
“Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t take really good care of their pet’s teeth,” says DeAndre Upton, a registered veterinary technician with Eagle’s Landing Veterinary Hospital in Georgia. “When owners come in and say, ‘My dog needs their teeth cleaned,’ [pets] are at a stage 3, stage 4.”
On the day of their dental cleaning, pets should show up with an empty stomach. After taking X-rays and performing blood work to assess your pet’s health, vets will administer an IV and sedate the animal before scaling and polishing teeth. (Check out this video of the process.) Costly tooth extractions may be necessary, depending on the severity of gum disease. A fluoride treatment finishes the process. After all that drama, it’s essential to keep those pearly whites healthy with regular brushing, chews and perhaps even a special diet that incorporates enzymes that break down tartar above the gum line.
Next: Prevention is key!