Periodically I am asked during animal communication sessions about dental care for pets. Sometimes the animal with which I’m working has discomfort or sensitivity in their mouth. We can get the specific symptoms from the animal during the consultation, but I always recommend that the animal be scheduled for a dental checkup in these cases, which usually can be done with the animal’s regular veterinarian.
Sometimes, however, I am simply asked about the “rule of thumb” for dental cleanings and checkups. My rule of thumb is always “check with your veterinarian!” I say this because every animal, just as every human, has different contributing factors which impact their oral health. The type of food the animal eats, genetic makeup, and types of medications that the animal might be taking can all play a role in the health of our pet’s mouth.
“Animals should have their mouth, teeth and gums examined by a veterinarian no less often than annually as part of their yearly wellness screening and exam. Some animals, because of age, genetic makeup or previous dental problems, will need more frequent exams. Scaling, polishing and regular prophylactic care is important in order to avoid plaque build-up, gingival disease, bacterial infection and potential tooth or bone loss.”
It is normal for animals to have some amount of tartar and plaque buildup, and again there is no rule of thumb regarding the typical age when a first dental cleaning is required or recommended. Your Veterinarian should check your animal’s mouth each year during their well-visit and can help you determine if a dental cleaning is in your pet’s immediate future. Some animals only need a few professional cleanings in their lifetime, and others should have the full procedure every year or two. Home oral care also contributes to the frequency of needed cleanings.
The most thorough and successful dental cleaning uses ultrasonic sound waves to scale the teeth and requires the animal to be under general anesthesia. Your veterinarian can help determine if there are significant or increased risks with anesthesia for your particular pet.
An alternative to the ultrasonic cleaning is an anesthesia-free procedure which may be an option for some pets, especially if they are older or have a medical condition which makes anesthesia risky. I have had a couple of clients who have used and had good results with this type of cleaning. It was the right choice for their individual pet’s needs, however it is important to note that while the anesthesia-free dental cleaning is gaining popularity, the general Veterinary community remains guarded in its use. The procedure is not as effective in cleaning bacteria up under the gum line, which may lead to gingivitis, infection, or even tooth and bone loss over time. Many animals’ temperament is not suited to the anesthesia-free procedure.
There are products which can help maintain a healthier mouth between cleanings. PlaqueOff is a natural supplement for dogs or cats and helps to reduce tartar and plaque. There are also a number of products available for regular home-based oral hygiene. Your Vet Clinic may sell brushes and animal-appropriate toothpaste, and most pet stores carry a variety of these products to brush your pet’s teeth between professional cleanings.