HealthPet CareWhat happens during a pet dental cleaning?

February 15, 2023by kennelclublax

One of the most important aspects of protecting one’s dog or cat’s health is taking care of their teeth and dental health. Periodontal therapy helps control plaque and tartar buildup, which can cause pain, infection, and inflammation in the mouth if not taken care of. Skipping this important activity may eventually lead to needing to remove diseased teeth.

A key part of periodontal therapy is a complete dental cleaning. It’s part of 5 easy things you can do to keep your pet’s teeth healthy. This procedure will help get rid of tartar and plaque and reverse any damage that has been done to the teeth. This procedure must be done while your pet is asleep under general anesthesia and includes the following steps:


Presurgical Exam and Consultation

A thorough physical exam, along with lab work, will help ensure safety for your pet. The oral examination will identify any obvious problems such as fractures, excessive plaque accumulation, mobile teeth, oral masses, visible signs of disease and resorptive lesions (similar to cavities in humans). This allows the vet to assess any diseases and identify available treatment options.


Dental Cleaning/Scaling

Removal of plaque and tartar is performed via mechanical and hand scaling. The most common type of mechanical scaler in veterinary dentistry today is the ultrasonic scaler. A final pass with hand scaling is then performed to ensure the complete removal of any remaining plaque.



Scaling leaves the tooth surface rough, which can allow plaque to attach more easily in the future. Polishing will smooth the surface of the teeth and repel plaque. Polishing is typically performed with a motorized tool similar to what your own dentist uses.



The cleaning and polishing steps will result in debris like hardened plaque to accumulate under the gum line. In some cases there are visible deposits, but in all cases there is microscopic debris. These substances can cause infection and inflammation, so they must be flushed out.


Periodontal Probing, Oral Evaluation, and Dental Charting

Once cleaned, the entire oral cavity must be systematically evaluated by sight and touch. A periodontal probe is inserted into several spots around every tooth to identify any pockets or gaps. Mobility of teeth and degeneration of the gums are also evaluated and added to the dental chart.


Dental X-rays

Dental radiography is an key part of dentistry these days. In dogs and cats, approximately 70% of the tooth’s structure is the root, which is invisible during clinical examination and can only be assessed with x-rays. Common problems that can be found include trauma, periodontitis, tooth resorption, developmental anomalies, abscesses and neoplasia. All things you don’t want to miss!


Treatment Planning

After the examination, cleaning and x-rays, the vet can decide if there are any appropriate therapies to pursue. Such therapies could include tooth extractions to get rid of dentition that is diseased beyond repair or removing a tissue mass.


Patient Recovery and Owner Education

Upon completion of the procedure, your pet will be monitored during recovery and then discharged. Cats and dogs that required extensive extractions will need to be fed soft food for some duration following the procedure so as not to disrupt the suture nor increase any surgical site inflammation.

Tooth brushing remains the gold standard of oral hygiene for pets. Unfortunately, very few owners are able to pursue regular tooth brushing, making periodic dental procedures that much more important. Many products shown to decrease plaque have been formulated as well. A good site to learn more about these products is


Next Steps

If you’re interested in scheduling an exam to evaluate your pet’s teeth, you can call the PriVET Pet Care office.

Exams can easily be performed during Kennel Club LAX daycare and, if indicated, lab work samples can be obtained and submitted to the lab. PriVET Pet Care can even pick-up pet patients and transport them to their surgical suite, and then drop them back off at home once fully recovered.

Make your daycare reservation with us today!

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