Has your veterinarian told you that it’s time for your fur-baby to get a professional dental cleaning?    

Let’s walk through the process, so you know what to expect and how to care for your furry family member before and after their cleaning.    

When should my pet get a dental cleaning?

Most puppies and kittens should have their first dental check-up with a veterinarian around the age of 6 months, when their adult teeth come in. At this check-up, your veterinarian will examine to ensure their adult teeth are growing in fully and in the right direction! This is also the age to begin your dental care routine at home, which should include regular tooth brushing.    

Cats and small dogs (under 30 lbs) generally should have their first professional dental cleaning around 1 year of age. Larger dog breeds may have their first cleaning closer to 2 years old, as their bodies develop at a different rate.    

For adult pets over the age of 2, your veterinarian may recommend a professional dental cleaning every few years as preventative care. The most common reason that pets get a dental cleaning is when the veterinarian has found signs of early-stage or advanced gingivitis or periodontal disease. At this point, a professional cleaning is required to prevent the disease from developing further.    

Before a dental cleaning

To start, whether your cat or dog has periodontal disease or not, the first step will be an oral exam at your veterinarian’s office. The doctor will take a close examination of your pet’s teeth, gums, and mouth – as well as any other risk factors that may impact their overall health – and determine what “grade” of dental cleaning your pet requires. This “grade” essentially determines how much deep cleaning is needed to remove periodontal disease or gingivitis and bring the mouth to a healthy state.    

The day of your pet’s dental cleaning

On the day of your pet’s dental cleaning, your pet will be put under anesthesia. This allows the veterinarian and technicians to safely take dental x-rays, probe underneath the gum line, chart the teeth to evaluate the level of periodontal disease, deep clean the pockets of the teeth, and if needed, extract any diseased or damaged teeth. Depending on the grade of dental cleaning required, this process may take anywhere from one to several hours.    

Recovery after a dental cleaning

For the first couple of days after your pet’s dental procedure, your fur-baby may seem drowsy, quiet, or wobbly on their feet as the effects of the anesthesia wear off. Your veterinarian will provide written instructions for caring for your pet post-surgery, and may send you home with an anti-inflammatory medication to help relieve pain.    

For at least one week after the procedure, feed your pet soft food only. This may include a raw or canned diet, or you can soak their dry kibble in warm water for 30 minutes before serving to let it get mushy. Don’t worry if your pet isn’t interested in food for the first 24 hours or so after coming home. Their appetite should return within a day or two.    

If your pet had any teeth removed, they will likely have sutures (stitches) in their gums. As the gums heal, you may notice light or spotty bleeding around the lips and mouth; this is normal. Call your veterinarian if you notice excessive bleeding or if your pet shows signs of discomfort or pain.    

For most pets, recovering from a dental procedure is quick and smooth. Your pooch or kitty should be back to their normal self within a week and ready to chow down with those pearly whites!