The goal of professional dental cleaning is to prevent or help treat periodontal disease. Ideally, a dental cleaning should be performed before periodontal disease is present. Once periodontal disease is present, a cleaning alone may not fully address the disease; other treatment options may be needed to help prevent the progression of disease. It is always easier (and less expensive) to prevent periodontal disease than to treat it.
Every professional dental cleaning starts with a review of the patient’s general health and any previous dental history. For a thorough, safe dental cleaning in veterinary patients, anesthesia is essential. Without anesthesia, proper diagnostics and treatment cannot be performed and dental disease will be missed. Anesthesia-free cleaning is not recommended.
The first step in a professional dental cleaning is a thorough oral examination. Each tooth is closely examined and gum depths are measured at many points of each tooth. Abnormalities are recorded on a dental chart. Since pets can’t tell you when a specific tooth is hurting, dental radiographs are often required to correctly diagnose and assist in treatment of oral disease. If advanced periodontal disease is present, several treatment options, in addition to a professional cleaning, may be employed.
The actual dental cleaning removes the dental plaque and calculus (tartar) that contribute to periodontal disease . The calculus is removed with ultrasonic scalers and hand dental scalers. The areas both above and below the gum line on the inside and outside surfaces of the teeth are meticulously treated. Following scaling, the teeth are polished to remove residual plaque and to smooth the tooth surface. A plaque-preventive sealant called OraVet or fluoride may also be applied to the teeth.
The final step in the professional cleaning process is formulating a home care plan. Although the cleaning itself helps prevent or control the disease, oral home care is key in treating periodontal disease. After all, people don’t expect to go to the dentist every 6 months to have their teeth cleaned and never brush in between. Though daily brushing is the gold standard in periodontal disease prevention, many other home care options are also available. Recommendations for a follow-up examination should also be discussed at the time of the cleaning.
Often, people want to know how often they should have their pet’s teeth professionally cleaned. Unfortunately, there is no general answer for this question. Recommendations on frequency of cleanings are based mainly on the level of periodontal disease, breed and genetic disposition, and level and frequency of oral home care. Some pets with severe disease may require a professional cleaning every 2-3 months until the level of disease has stabilized, while other pets with owners who provide diligent home care may be fine having their teeth cleaned every 2 years. Every pet is different and oral treatment should be individualized to each patient.