Do I Really Need To Have My Pet’s Teeth Cleaned?

Depending on the age, breed of your pet, as well as whether or not you have been brushing their teeth, the answer is probably yes, BUT cleaning alone is not sufficient if periodontal disease is already present!!!

Periodontal disease refers to the progressive inflammation and damage to the tissues that surround and support the teeth. It is the MOST COMMON DISEASE of dogs and cats and begins early in life. This disease affects 80% of dogs and 70% of cats greater than 3 years old. Some dogs, particularly small breeds and greyhounds, are very prone to periodontal disease, whereas most of the larger breeds tend not to be as severely affected. It is a PREVENTABLE disease. Regular brushing and use of approved dental health products can decrease or even eliminate the probability that your pet’s teeth will ever require treatment for this disease.

The first stage of periodontal disease is gingivitis (inflammation/reddening) of the gums. Left untreated the gums lose their tight attachment to the teeth and destructive bacteria build up in the resulting “pockets” that are formed. As the disease progresses more damage occurs and the bone in which the teeth are embedded is itself destroyed.

Once this process has begun, simply cleaning the teeth is NOT adequate to restore the mouth to a healthy state. It is NOT possible to tell just by looking at the gums whether the structures below the gum line are normal. Full mouth x-rays are required to assess the extent of bone loss and to check for the presence of tooth root infections. This information is necessary in order to determine if teeth need to be extracted.

If periodontal pockets are present but bone loss is minimal, the pockets should be “cleaned out” and filled with a long lasting antibiotic preparation.

In addition to halitosis (bad breath), periodontal disease causes PAIN. Many pets with advanced periodontal disease appear normal and have no apparent difficulty eating. However, a significant percentage of owners report that their pets demonstrate improved attitudes and levels of activity following a complete and thorough dental treatment. Extraction of diseased teeth relieves the “tooth aches” that many of these animals have been suffering from for years.

Remember, this is a PREVENTABLE disease. There are many videos on YouTube about brushing your pet’s teeth. We found the following to be very helpful:


(1) How to brush your dog’s teeth and train dogs to cooperate by Clint Cora.                                

(2) Brushing your dog’s teeth by Ridgewoodvet.


(1) Brushing your cat’s teeth by Somersetvet Group.

NOTE: In addition to periodontal disease, cats suffer from two unique types of dental disease: tooth resorption and chronic stomatitis.

Tooth resorption is a condition in which the crown and the root of the tooth literally gets eaten away. We do not know why cats get these lesions but they are extremely painful and often affect multiple teeth. Affected teeth must be removed.

Chronic stomatitis is characterized by severe inflammation affecting the gums and other areas of the mouth. We do not understand this disease completely, but the current theory is that some cats develop an over active immune response to bacteria on the teeth. This condition is extremely painful and extraction of all of the cat’s teeth is the currently recommended treatment. Unfortunately, approximately 30% of cats do not respond or only exhibit a partial response.

Whereas brushing your cat’s teeth will aid in preventing periodontal disease it will, unfortunately, not prevent tooth resorption or chronic stomatitis.

There is also evidence that moderate to severe dental disease predisposes cats to the development of chronic kidney disease.

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