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Dental Scaling For Dogs: Your Guide To Veterinary Teeth Cleaning - PawSafe

Dental Scaling For Dogs: Your Guide To Veterinary Teeth Cleaning

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

Dental Scaling For Dogs Your Guide To Veterinary Teeth Cleaning

Maintaining your furry friend’s oral health is just as crucial as taking care of their diet and exercise needs. Among the various components of dog dental care, teeth scaling stands out as a vital procedure for preventing periodontal disease and ensuring the overall well-being of your pet. Dr. David Persson, a renowned expert in veterinary dentistry, emphasizes the significance of regular dental check-ups and treatments in his comprehensive study on the subject, underscoring how proactive dental care can vastly improve the quality of life for our canine companions.

Teeth scaling for dogs, a process that removes plaque and tartar buildup from the teeth and below the gumline, is a key preventive measure against oral diseases that can lead to serious health issues. The procedure not only helps in keeping bad breath at bay but also plays a pivotal role in preventing tooth loss and infections that can affect the dog’s heart, liver, and kidneys.

With insights from Dr. Persson’s research, this article will explore the importance of dog teeth scaling, the benefits it offers, and the considerations dog owners should keep in mind, including when it’s time for the procedure, what it entails, its safety, and the cost implications. Whether you’re contemplating how to best prepare your dog for teeth scaling, wondering about the recovery process, or considering at-home dental care alternativ-e-archives, understanding the comprehensive scope of dog dental scaling is the first step towards ensuring your pet’s optimal oral health.

Periodontal disease is very serious and leads to multiple health complications that can shorten your dog’s lifespan and affect their quality of life. You can read more about the stages of periodontal disease here.

Your vet will use an ultrasonic dental scaler to remove the visible plaque above the gum line and then use hand scalers and other tools to scrape away the plaque below the gums. This is the most dangerous place for plaque, as this is where the disease starts.

The vet will also clean out any periodontal pockets where bits of food and bacteria may hide and finish with a good polishing. This polish makes it harder for plaque to adhere to the surface of the teeth in the future. If your dog does have periodontitis, they may apply antimicrobial rinses and prescribe antibiotics or other medication.

During the procedure, your vet will also note any abnormalities in the mouth.

What Happens When You Take Your Dog for a Dental Cleaning?

veterinarian performing dental scaling on yorkshire terrier dog

When you take your dog to get their teeth cleaned, the vet will first conduct a complete oral exam to determine if they need an appointment for scaling. Remember, we never want to put a dog under anesthetic unnecessarily. Since the procedure takes time, you will likely need to make an appointment.

If it looks like there is some plaque that needs to be removed to keep the teeth healthy, the vet will do some bloodwork to check if it’s safe to use anesthesia. They may also check your dog’s abdomen and heart. If everything looks good, your vet will go ahead and anesthetize your dog so that they can take X-rays of the mouth.

The X-rays will show any abnormalities, such as cavities or a loss of bone density, that could indicate disease. It can also help your vet diagnose the stage of any possible periodontal problems. At this point, the vet may need to discuss any possible additional treatment your dog may need. This could include extracting teeth or even root canals in some cases.

How Often Does a Dog Need Professional Dental Cleaning and Scaling?

When it comes to dog teeth cleaning, how often is the key question. In general, your pet’s teeth should be cleaned about once a year. However, some breeds and older dogs may need to have it done every six months.

Smaller dogs often have overcrowded mouths and are far more prone to dental issues. Likewise, short-nosed breeds such as Bulldogs, Shih Tzus, and Pugs are particularly prone to tooth problems. Dogs with diabetes or advanced periodontitis will also need more regular oral care. In these cases, you may need to take your dog for a check-up and possibly a cleaning twice a year.

Are Dental Cleanings Worth it for Dogs?

Full scaling is not only worth it, but it is absolutely essential for your dog’s health and well-being. Taking care of your dog’s dental hygiene at home by brushing, chew toys, and doggy mouthwashes go a long way toward preventing infection and disease. Still, they do not clean under the gums.

The plaque beneath the gum is the most dangerous, as it causes gum inflammation and then gradually rots away at the vital ligaments and bones that hold the teeth in place. This is the part you cannot clean yourself and that you need your vet to do. You can see this article if you would like to learn more about how to properly clean your dog’s mouth at home. If you have a young dog, be sure to check out our article on proper oral care for puppies

If an infection starts under the gum line, it weakens the jaw bone enough to cause fractures and cause abscesses. The toxins from the harmful bacteria enter the bloodstream. With the constant low-grade inflammation in the body, your dog can develop several severe problems, including cancer, heart disease, and kidney failure.

Is Teeth Cleaning Painful for Dogs?

Your vet will put your dog under anesthetic for oral cleanings, so the procedure will not be painful. They may be a little sensitive afterward, but this should be barely noticeable. However, suppose your dog has an infection or had a tooth extraction. In that case, they may need medication to help ease the discomfort.

Can There Be Complications from Dog Dental Scaling?

Before your dog is placed under general anesthesia, your vet should conduct blood tests to check their kidney and liver function, as anesthesia always runs the risk of organ failure. However, this is extremely rare and should be ruled out in the pre-examination. Older or senior dogs may also be at risk because of the anesthesia.

Another aspect to enquire about is the whether the vet will use a cooled ultrasonic scaler or a heated teeth scaler. Heated teeth scalers can damage the pulp in the teeth and are not a good option.

Can I Clean the Plaque Off My Dog’s Teeth Myself?

It is not safe to try to clean under your dog’s gum your self or use any kind of human dental tool. Any sudden movement from your dog could injure their gums, and human dental tools can damage and scratch the enamel. But what about dog dental scalers you can find online? Surely these are a good option for low cost teeth cleaning for dogs?

Unfortunately, scaling your dog’s teeth yourself is not a good idea. Even if your dog is well-behaved and sits still, the scaler scratches tiny grooves into the tooth surface. These grooves are perfect for more harmful bacteria and plaque to take hold and cause a bigger problem. This is why veterinarians will always polish the teeth after scaling, to smooth the surface.

Furthermore, a dog teeth cleaning without anesthesia cannot be thorough or complete, especially if the dog has any kind of infection or pain in their mouth. And without X-rays to peek under the surface, you cannot know if your dog is developing a dental disease that needs professional care.

How Much Does a Professional Dog Dental Scaling Cost?

Just a scaling typically costs between $100 and $200. However, since your dog will also need an exam, bloodwork, X-rays, and other work done, the total cost is usually well over $500. If your dog needs extensive dental work or surgery, the cost may rise well above $1000.

For this reason, it is crucial to invest in quality pet insurance to help cover the cost. Do not be tempted to avoid taking your dog for a full cleaning either, as neglecting this aspect of dental hygiene can lead to much more severe health problems and vet bills down the road.

Is Dental Scaling Safe for Older Dogs?

a vet examining an older dog before a dental scaling

Dental scaling is generally safe for older dogs and can significantly contribute to their overall health and quality of life. However, because older dogs are more likely to have underlying health conditions, veterinarians take extra precautions.

Pre-anesthetic screenings, including blood tests and sometimes X-rays or ultrasounds, are conducted to assess the dog’s overall health and anesthesia risk. These tests help the veterinary team to tailor the anesthesia protocol to the individual dog, minimizing risks. Continuous monitoring during and after the procedure ensures any adverse reactions are quickly addressed.

Maintaining dental health in older dogs is particularly important because poor oral health can exacerbate or lead to systemic issues, such as heart, liver, and kidney diseases, which are more common in senior pets. Regular dental scaling can prevent these issues and help maintain the overall well-being of older dogs.

Health Benefits of Dental Scaling for Dogs

Proper teeth cleaning in dogs is linked to reducing disease later in life.

  1. Prevents Periodontal Disease: Dental scaling removes plaque and tartar buildup, preventing periodontal disease, which can lead to tooth loss and infections that may spread to other parts of the body.
  2. Eliminates Bad Breath: Scaling gets rid of the bacteria that cause bad breath, making your dog’s mouth fresher.
  3. Reduces Risk of Organ Damage: Bacteria from periodontal disease can enter the bloodstream and damage vital organs, such as the heart, liver, and kidneys. Regular dental cleanings help prevent this.
  4. Improves Quality of Life: Painful dental issues can affect your dog’s mood and behavior. Scaling prevents these problems, keeping your dog happier and more active.
  5. Cost-effective: Preventing dental issues through scaling can be more cost-effective in the long run than treating advanced periodontal disease or systemic problems resulting from poor dental health.

In conclusion, while dental scaling is safe for older dogs with proper precautions, its health benefits extend to dogs of all ages. Regular dental care, including professional scaling and at-home maintenance, plays a crucial role in preventing serious health issues and maintaining your dog’s quality of life. Always consult with your veterinarian to determine the best dental care plan for your dog, taking into account their age, health status, and specific needs.

Does My Dog Need Teeth Scaling Under Anesthesia?

The short answer is, in most cases, yes. Teeth scaling under anesthesia is recommended for thorough dental cleaning both above and below the gumline, which is not safely achievable on an awake dog. Anesthesia ensures your dog is pain-free during the procedure and allows the veterinarian to perform a comprehensive cleaning without causing stress or harm. Concerns about anesthesia are common among pet owners, but with modern veterinary practices, including pre-anesthetic blood work and monitoring, the process is generally safe for dogs of all ages. Discuss any concerns with your vet, who can assess your dog’s health and determine the safest approach.

How to Prepare My Dog for Teeth Scaling

Preparing your dog for teeth scaling primarily involves ensuring they’re healthy enough for anesthesia. Your vet might recommend fasting your dog for 8-12 hours before the procedure to prevent vomiting and aspiration. Make sure your dog is well-hydrated leading up to the fasting period. It’s also important to discuss your dog’s medical history with your vet, including any medications they’re taking, as some might need to be paused or adjusted. A pre-anesthetic check-up, including blood tests, might be conducted to ensure your dog is fit for anesthesia.

Recovery After Dog Teeth Scaling

Post-scaling, your dog may experience grogginess from the anesthesia, which should wear off within 24 hours. Offer them a quiet place to rest and recover. Your vet might prescribe pain medication or antibiotics, so ensure you follow the dosage instructions. Initially, feed your dog soft food to prevent discomfort in the gums. Monitor their recovery, checking for signs of pain, excessive bleeding, or unusual behavior, and report any concerns to your vet immediately. Most dogs bounce back quickly, showing more enthusiasm for eating and playing with a pain-free mouth.

Final Thoughts

It can be tempting to try to buy a dog scaler online, but this is not advisable. Unless you have a dog that needs more regular oral hygiene care it is essential your dog go to a vet for proper scaling and polishing roughly once a year. Maintaining dental health is not just about avoiding yellow teeth and bad breath but also about keeping our dogs strong and healthy for as long as possible.

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.