Dog Teeth Cleaning: What You Need to Know

Last Updated on March 6, 2023 by Woody Pet

Find out what you need to know about dog teeth cleaning – professional cleaning, tips and advice, and aftercare!

Dog Teeth Cleaning: What You Need to Know

dog teeth cleaning
Image From Jonathan Daniels

Just like us, humans, dogs are susceptible to many diseases that are caused by bad oral hygiene. This makes it even more crucial that we make it our responsibility to clean our dog’s teeth. There are a variety of ways you can go about this: professional dog teeth cleaning, home dog teeth brushing, and dog chews and treats that help improve your dog’s oral hygiene. 

Professional Dog Teeth Cleaning: The Process

dog teeth cleaning
Image From FLOUFFY

This isn’t just a quick walk-in appointment to the veterinarian. There are actually many steps you, as a dog parent, and your dog need to take before going into the cleaning process. 

The Dental Exam and Pre-Anesthetic Work

This step is the most important one that you definitely should not skip – the veterinarian wouldn’t let you, anyway. They will walk you through the necessary procedures prior to the dental cleaning. Through the dental exam, the veterinarian will be able to assess whether or not it’s safe for your dog to receive anesthesia. 

This part of the process might require you to go back for another appointment before the cleaning. There are blood testsand sometimes, urinalysisinvolved to ensure that your dog is fit and healthy enough to undergo anesthesia. Take note and prepare for the possible instructions you might get from the vet regarding the amount of food and water intake your dog should get in a period of time. 

Anesthesia in dogs is especially essential to professional dog teeth cleaning. Doing so would allow the veterinarian to perform the succeeding procedures properly and without the dog being in too much pain. Without the anesthesia, the veterinarian won’t be able to clean below the gum line, which is where most of the bacteria build-up.

Tooth Assessment and Cleaning

When your dog is finally under anesthesia, the vet might take dental X-rays to see where the problem areas lie. This gives them the proper assessment of whether or not to proceed with other procedures such as tooth extractions. 

The veterinarian will also be using scaling tools to remove the plaque and tartar that has built up along your dog’s teeth above and below the gum line. This is also used as an evaluation for potential diseases that your dog might have contracted, along with the X-rays. 

A tube will be inserted into your dog’s throat to maintain their airway clear. This is also used for administering oxygen as well as anesthetic gas required in the operation. Vets usually insert an IV, or intravenous catheter, to administer fluids that maintain your dog’s organ health and their blood pressure while under anesthesia. 

Finally, your dog’s teeth will be cleaned by removing sizable pieces of tartar and plaque through the use of a scaler. Then, another scaler will be used to go into make sure individual teeth will be cleaned optimally. 

The veterinarian will then use instruments small enough to fit in the spaces between their teeth and gum. Doing so will enable them to measure how deep the pockets between the tooth and gum are. This pocket is the space where periodontal disease, which is one of the most common diseases caused by bad oral hygiene in dogs. 


On to the final step: rinsing and polishing. Once the tartar and plaque that have built up in every crevice have been completely removed, the veterinarian will rinse your dog’s mouth and polish the surfaces of every tooth. This is done so that the etchings that were created by the scalers would be smooth. 

Doing so would prevent further plaque and tartar build-up in these small crevices. The mouth will be rinsed once again after polishing. The veterinarian might apply some treatment over the surface of your dog’s teeth to end the process. 

Aftercare for Dog Teeth Cleaning Procedures

dog teeth cleaning
Image From Joao Victor Xavier

The after-effects of the professional dog teeth cleaning procedures do not end at the pet clinic, unfortunately (for you and your dog). Usually, it will take around 12 to 48 hours before the dogs are able to go back to their regular diet.

This is because the anesthesia won’t be out of your dog’s system immediately after the cleaning. If your veterinarian performed other procedures such as extractions and major surgeries, you and your dog might need to wait three to five days for a full recovery.

To help your dog get back from their feet, one thing you can do is to soften their food. Hard food will only hurt their mouths as they are fresh from anesthesia and deep cleaning. Soft food helps them eat comfortably especially in this crucial time of recovery. 

Your veterinarian might also prescribe pain medication before you get home from the clinic to help alleviate your dog’s pain. If not, you can always consult with them if it’s safe to give them painkillers. 

Of course, another easy way to help your dog is to play with them. Not only will this distract them from the discomfort they’re experiencing, but it will also help build a stronger bond between you two! Play games with them during and after the hours after their treatment to help ease the pain. 

How Often Your Dog Should Get Professional Dog Teeth Cleaning

Dental care for dogs isn’t much different from our kind of dental care. Just like us, they also need to go to the clinic to get their teeth professionally cleaned at least once a year. If possible, even once every six months. 

The frequency actually depends on the dog. Periodontal disease is more common in smaller dogs because there’s not much space in their mouths. When teeth begin to crowd, there is a higher tendency for plaque to build up, hence, higher chances for it to lead to periodontal disease.

Another indicator of when you should bring your pet to the veterinarian is bad breath. Other signs include bleeding gums, traces of blood on chews or toys, and difficulty in eating. Keep an eye out for these symptoms! 

Ultimately, it’s important that you, as the dog parent, should be responsible in keeping your dog’s teeth consistently clean and healthy. 

Alternatives in Between Professional Dog Teeth Cleaning

During the time that you won’t take your dog to the veterinarian, don’t be complacent. Allowing the plaque and tartar to build up will only give you and your dog a hard time in recovering. Diseases other than periodontal disease could come up that will be more difficult to treat. 

Here are some of the things you can do and use in between dental cleanings: 

Teeth Brushing

It goes without saying that brushing your teeth is a MUST in our everyday lives. It’s the same for dogs. As much as possible, take every opportunity you can to brush their teeth every week. However, just because tooth brushing is equally important for us and our dogs, it doesn’t mean that they can use the same tools that we use. 

For instance, human toothpaste is different from dog toothpaste. As a matter of fact, our toothpaste is even toxic to them. It contains ingredients that could lead to gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms can also lead to more complex complications so do remember to avoid using your own toothpaste. The cost of dog toothpaste is much lower than emergency visits to the veterinarian. 

Dog Tooth Wipes

If dog teeth brushing proves to be too much of a challenge to do every week, dog tooth wipes is the perfect solution for you! They do the same job of removing plaque and tartar on the surface of your dog’s teeth but it’s not as thorough as tooth brushing.

However, do keep in mind that these dog tooth wipes won’t be able to touch into the nook and crannies of your dog’s teeth as efficiently as toothbrushes and professional dog teeth cleaning do. 

Dog Dental Treats and Chews

Every dog loves treats and chews! When there are some that also have teeth-cleaning properties, then you’re hitting two birds with one stone. Chewing, in general, already helps improve your dog’s oral health; the act of chewing scrapes off the plaque in your dog’s teeth and other treats that could have been stuck in their mouth. 

There are dog dental treats that improve your dog’s oral health as they are designed to remove plaque buildup. Plus, they also have ingredients that help clean your dog’s mouth and freshen their breath! Similar to treats, dog chews also have teeth-cleaning properties such as bully sticks and chicken strips.

They’ll both appreciate the treat as well as the efforts in ensuring their healthy dental hygiene. 

It’s easy to overlook your dog’s teeth but their dental health is important to maintain. Various diseases can build up in their mouths that could lead to further complications. When in doubt, always ask your veterinarian regarding proper dog teeth cleaning procedures! 


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