pet dental care faq; smiling dog in grass

Pet dental care is an incredibly important part of your pet’s overall wellness plan! But knowing how, when, and why to care for your pets’ teeth can be confusing. In honor of Pet Dental Health Awareness Month, we’re answering some of the most frequently asked questions we hear about routine pet dental care, dental disease, and pet dental cleanings. 

Isn’t it normal for pets to have bad breath? 

Despite being fairly common, bad breath isn’t normal for our furry companions. Persistent bad breath is most likely a sign of oral health issues. This could be anything from odor-causing plaque and tartar buildup to gum disease or even oral infections. If you suspect your pet’s bad breath is related to oral health issues, schedule an appointment with your veterinary care team! 

Is pet dental disease common? 

Pet dental disease is a very common condition for both dogs and cats. It’s estimated that by the time they’re three years old, nearly 80% of all dogs and cats over the age of three have periodontal (gum) disease. However, if left untreated, mild dental disease can turn into a chronic and painful problem. 

What are the signs and symptoms of pet dental disease? 

The signs of pet dental disease aren’t always obvious! In fact, serious problems often lurk below the gum line without any change to your pet’s behavior. That’s why annual dental X-rays are incredibly important to pets’ overall well-being. 

In general, some of the symptoms of pet dental disease include: 

  • Persistent bad breath
  • Red, bleeding, or receding gums
  • Teeth that are discolored or covered in yellow-brown plaque
  • Reduced appetite or refusing to eat
  • Abnormal chewing or drooling
  • Pain in or around the mouth
  • Loose, infected, or broken teeth

How often should my pet have professional dental cleanings? 

We recommend annual professional dental cleanings for pets over three years old. Older pets may need more frequent dental care, depending on their breed, age, and health status. At Pine Point Animal Hospital, we’ll evaluate your pet’s teeth every year at their annual exam and recommend a dental cleaning if it seems necessary. 

Do I need to brush my pet’s teeth every day? 

Daily tooth brushing with a pet-safe enzymatic toothpaste can help maintain a healthy mouth! Tooth brushing helps prevent disease-causing bacteria from accumulating and hardening into plaque and tartar. Other at-home pet dental care options include dental treats, such as dental hygiene chews or drinking water additives

How else can I prevent periodontal disease? 

Annual dental cleanings are the best way to prevent painful periodontal conditions! Dental cleanings with full-mouth X-rays give us a chance to check under the gumline and make sure your pet’s mouth is healthy. 

What happens during a pet dental cleaning? 

Before the procedure, your veterinary care team will talk to you about your pet’s health history and complete a thorough physical exam. We’ll recommend pre-anesthetic blood work to make sure your pet will be safe during the procedure. 

Every pet dental starts with a thorough oral exam and full-mouth x-rays to check for signs of trouble below the gumline. During the procedure, our team scales way disease-causing dental plaque and tartar. This includes buildup below the gumline, which isn’t always visible to the naked eye. After scaling, we polish the teeth to help prevent future plaque buildup. 

Does my pet have to be anesthetized for a dental cleaning? 

Anesthesia makes pet dental cleanings safer, more comfortable, and more effective. Even the most well-behaved pets struggle to stay completely still during X-rays and dental cleanings. 

Sudden movements during tooth cleaning can reduce the effectiveness of the procedure or, even worse, cause injuries to your pet’s mouth. Plus, if your veterinarian finds damaged teeth, they may recommend extractions (removing the teeth) or other procedures as necessary.

Cleaning pets’ teeth while they’re under anesthesia is the safest, least stressful way to keep their mouths healthy for the long haul. 

What should I expect after my pet’s dental cleaning? 

At discharge, your veterinarian or technician will review everything that was performed during the procedure. This is a great time to ask any questions you have about your pet’s dental care and health. If there is an infection present or your pet is at high risk of infection, your vet may send you home with antibiotics. They’ll also provide pain medication to prevent inflammation and discomfort. 

If your pet had teeth extracted, they may need to eat soft food for a few days while the extraction site heals. Depending on the number of extractions, your vet may recommend a recheck to make sure everything is healing well. 

Pet Dental Care Is An Important Part of Your Pet’s Total Wellness!

Don’t let your pet’s oral health be an afterthought. Between annual cleanings and regular at-home dental care, we can help pets live happier, healthier lives. Ready to schedule your pet’s next annual exam? Give us a call at 503-912-4477 or email

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