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Are You Afraid To Get Your Pet’s Teeth Cleaned? We Get That.

Dog holding toothbrush in his mouth

Many of us dread the idea of our pet getting their teeth cleaned even more than we do our own visits to the dentist and would willingly undergo our own root canal if it meant avoiding our pet having to go under anesthesia. We've all heard the horror stories of the perfectly healthy animals who went in for a routine teeth cleaning and didn't make it out alive. And we all know all too well that there is always some degree of risk with anesthesia for both pets and people. So, it's completely understandable when we dig in our heels and decide to simply not take that chance.

The problem is that by not going, we may be taking a much greater chance that could lead to something far scarier than mere dog / cat breath or a dingy smile. We're talking pain and tooth loss just for starters. And it only gets worse from there. If left unchecked, bacteria growth in your pet's mouth can enter their bloodstream through unhealthy gum tissue and this can lead to life-threatening conditions that can damage their heart, kidneys, lungs and other organs.

Regular brushing is great, but not a substitute for professional dental care.

Unless your pet's mouth chemistry is freakishly inhospitable to a buildup of bacteria, like that friend of yours who has never had a single cavity despite a lifetime of flossless living, a good dental hygiene plan is a must. Without one, we could easily be putting our pets at an even greater risk than anesthesia.

Just like with human teeth, animals' teeth trap food particles that can form bacteria that can then cause plaque and tartar to develop. And just like with human teeth, there's only so much care you can do yourself at home. So, if you regularly brush and floss your pet's teeth (and if you do, PLEASE send us a video), they still needs to have their teeth checked and cleaned professionally. By "professionally", we mean at a veterinary clinic. And by "checked" we mean regularly, as in every time you take your pet to the vet. In fact, if your vet doesn't check out the inside your pet's mouth at every visit, it might be time to check out a new vet; it really is that important.

From all that we've learned, having your pet's teeth cleaned without anesthesia as part of some sort of spa package at the groomers has little more than a cosmetic benefit. That's due to the fact that just like in your own mouth, the problems lurk below the gum line. And while your dentist can let you know that this is going to hurt a little or that it's almost over, those sorts of assurances are going to fall on deaf ears with your dog, no matter how good their hearing is. The only way they are going to be still and be all better when it's all over is if they are under anesthesia so the veterinarian or trained vet tech can really get in there to remove any plaque and tartar. This is also the only way your pet's mouth can be carefully checked for things like broken and infected teeth and any growths that may require a closer look.

Vet checking dog's teeth

As with any other consideration of your pet's health, this is a discussion best had with your pet's veterinarian. Of course, the skeptic in some of us may initially assume that of course the veterinarian is going to recommend professional, veterinary teeth cleaning. They don't make money when you tack on an anesthesia-free teeth cleaning to your pet's mani/pedi, after all. But it just makes sense, especially when you think about all the digging and scraping that goes on during your own teeth cleanings at the dentist's office. Even well behaved pets would never put up with that kind of activity inside their mouth without being put out like a light, regardless of what kind of aromatherapy, chakra chants or CBD treats are in the arsenal.

Depending on your pet's age and health, don't be surprised if the veterinarian tells you they need to do some fairly costly lab tests prior to your pet's dental appointment. Yes, these tests help the vet pay their bills, but they also do something infinitely more important to help your pet. The tests provide a critical picture of your pet's overall health which will help determine the best plan for a safe, effective teeth cleaning. Tests can reveal things unseen and unexpected that may indicate that your pet is ultimately not a good candidate for proper teeth cleaning because the risks of anesthesia outweigh the risks of dental issues. If this is the case, your veterinarian may suggest ways to get your pet healthier so that a good dental cleaning can be done safely. If not, ask what could be done without anesthesia, including what steps you could take at home to help improve your pet's dental health.

Not ready? Keep an open mind and a dialog open with your vet.

If you're still not ready to face your fears of getting your pet's teeth properly cleaned, we get that. Just don't close the door on the subject. Continue the discussion with your vet until, or if, you're ready to move forward.

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