takes care of Stumpy, a 7-year-old terrier mix, a
neutered male, that lives both inside and outside.
Sharie has had Stumpyís teeth cleaned in the past and
wonders how often itís necessary. She wants to take
care of his teeth but is concerned about the anesthetic
procedure when they are cleaned. She has heard that his
teeth can be cleaned by a groomer without anesthesia and
wondered if that might be a better way to go.
humans, itís common to have set, regular schedules for
dental cleanings, considered important in preventing
dental disease. This is not often the case with our
companions. It should be.
reasons we donít routinely have our companionsí
teeth addressed are many. Veterinarians donít always
communicate enough the need for proper dental care in
the prevention of dental disease as wells as other
diseases that can result from it. Cost also plays a
role. For humans, insurance helps reduce out-of-pocket
expense. Unfortunately, in veterinary medicine,
insurance is less common. As Sharie discusses in her
letter, anesthesia is an absolute necessity when
performing proper dental cleaning or treatment and this
can increase the risk involved. A key point, however:
the risk from dental disease almost always outweighs the
risk of anesthesia to the patient.
for having your dogís teeth cleaned by the groomer, I
advise against it. Certainly the groomer can be asked to
brush your dogís teeth but having them scaled while
the dog is being restrained is not a good idea. First of
all, it is virtually impossible to do a thorough
cleaning on an awake dog. Second, scaling the teeth
leaves tiny grooves in the enamel which allow for a much
faster building up of tartar. Thirdly, an awake dental
patient will not allow probing of the gum/tooth margins
and cleaning bellow the gum line, which is absolutely
necessary when properly cleaning a dogís teeth.
Another important step in proper dental cleaning is
polishing the teeth, which removes the tiny grooves
mentioned from the scaling process, leaving the teeth
ultra-smooth and more resistant to tartar build up.
for frequency, yearly cleaning is usually adequate in
younger patients, but itís not a
"cast-in-stone" rule. Some companions may need
to have their teeth cleaned more frequently.
companions, like individual people, have different
dental characteristics that affect dental health, from
how the teeth align, to how the enamel molecules pack
together and what type of bacteria live in the mouth.
Gum structure and how tightly the gums stick to the
tooth root margins can be very critical in dental
aging, the frequency of needed regular dental cleanings
usually increases because older dogs can have more
health issues that can be impacted by dental disease ó
heart disease, liver disease, and kidney disease, for
example. These are all worse for your companion than
having his teeth cleaned. At the very least, these
patients need to have their teeth examined twice a year.
veterinarian should be able to perform a thorough dental
evaluation along with a physical examination to
determine your companionís individual needs. And, donít
let age be the determining factor. Older companions are
often suffering from severe dental problems because
their caretakers are either ignorant of it or reluctant
to have them undergo a dental procedure. This is a big
mistake for their health and overall life quality. It is
no fun to live your life with dental disease and the
daily pain associated with it. Remember, the risk of the
procedure is far less than the risk of severe health
can tell you many wonderful stories of how much better
patients have felt after their caretakers have allowed
them to be treated for dental disease. It truly gives
these patients a new outlook on their lives.