Without regular dental prophylaxis, bacteria can infect your pet’s mouth and cause bad breath, gum infections, tooth loss, and serious heart, liver, and kidney disease. Professional veterinary dental cleanings are necessary to maintain your pet’s dental and overall health, and our Central Houston Animal Hospital team lets you peek behind the scenes to see what this procedure entails.

We evaluate your pet’s overall health

We are concerned about your pet’s overall health, and conditions affecting your pet’s mouth can cause systemic complications. We perform a thorough physical examination to assess your pet’s health status and may recommend further diagnostics if we detect an issue, such as a heart murmur or arrhythmia.

Some health issues can’t be detected on a physical examination, and we perform a complete blood count (CBC) and biochemistry profile to ensure your pet is in tip-top shape. These tests can help us detect many problematic conditions, including anemia, infection, electrolyte imbalances, diabetes, kidney disease, and liver disease.

We place your pet under anesthesia

We anesthetize your pet to perform a professional veterinary dental cleaning. This is necessary because:

  • Pets are not usually cooperative — Pets typically don’t respond well when strangers try to handle their mouth. Your four-legged friend may be the most well-behaved pet in the world, but they likely won’t cooperate when we attempt to clean under their gum line, which is necessary to remove the most damaging bacteria.
  • Pets may become stressed — Many pets get scared or stressed around unfamiliar people, and anesthesia helps ensure your pet doesn’t experience fear or anxiety during the procedure.
  • Pets can be injured — We use sharp instruments to clean your pet’s teeth, and anesthesia helps ensure they aren’t injured during the cleaning process.

We closely monitor your pet

Your pet’s safety is our top priority, and we assign a veterinary professional to monitor your pet from the moment we induce anesthesia until they fully recover. Precautions we take include:

  • Intravenous (IV) catheter — We place an IV catheter to administer fluids to support your pet’s cardiovascular system. This access also facilitates any necessary medication administration.
  • Endotracheal intubation — We intubate your pet to deliver anesthetic gas, protect their airway, and prevent fluid and debris aspiration.
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG) — We use an EKG to monitor your pet’s heart rate and rhythm, so we can detect changes as early as possible.
  • Body temperature — We monitor your pet’s body temperature to ensure they don’t experience hypothermia.
  • Blood pressure — We monitor your pet’s blood pressure to assess their cardiovascular status.
  • Oxygen levels — We use pulse oximetry and an end-tidal CO₂ monitor to ensure your pet receives adequate oxygen during anesthesia.

We thoroughly examine your pet’s oral cavity

Once your pet is safely anesthetized, we thoroughly evaluate their mouth, including lymph nodes, salivary glands, gingiva, mucosal tissue, soft palate, and tongue. We probe around each tooth to assess mobility and check for periodontal pockets. We record every finding in your pet’s dental chart to help monitor their oral health progress.

We take X-rays of your pet’s teeth

About 50% to 60% of a tooth’s structure is below the gum line, and we need intraoral X-rays to adequately evaluate your pet’s oral health and make an informed treatment plan for each tooth. Issues we may miss without X-rays include:

  • Devitalized tooth roots — When bacteria invade the tooth root, the tissue dies, and then the tooth dies, but the tooth appears normal in the initial stages.
  • Bone loss — When periodontal bacteria attack bone, the tissue weakens, which can lead to jaw bone fracture, especially in toy-breed dogs and cats.
  • Tooth resorption lesions — Tooth resorption lesions cause tooth deterioration, but the lesions typically can’t be seen without X-rays. 

We clean your pet’s teeth

Our team takes steps to make your pet’s mouth clean and healthy:

  • Scaling — We use safe, modern ultrasonic equipment to remove plaque and tartar from your pet’s teeth and from below their gum line.
  • Polishing — We polish your pet’s teeth to create a smooth, lustrous surface that better resists plaque accumulation.
  • Fluoride — Fluoride treatments help strengthen enamel and reduce tooth sensitivity.

We recommend daily at-home dental care

Home dental care is important to remove plaque and tartar from your pet’s teeth between professional veterinary dental cleanings. Recommendations include:

  • Scrubbing your pet’s pearly whites — Daily toothbrushing is the most effective way to keep your pet’s teeth clean and healthy between professional dental cleanings. Use a pet-specific toothpaste to prevent gum irritation—never use human toothpaste, which can be toxic to pets.
  • Letting your pet chew — Chewing can help physically remove plaque and tartar. Choose products that have been proven safe and effective by the Veterinary Oral Health Council.
  • Changing your pet’s diet — Prescription dental diets are specifically formulated to help remove plaque and tartar and reduce plaque accumulation. Ask our team if a dental diet is appropriate for your pet.

Most pets should receive a professional veterinary dental cleaning once a year, but toy-breed dogs, brachycephalic pets, and pets who have a malocclusion are at higher risk for dental disease, and may need more frequent assessments. Contact our Central Houston Animal Hospital team to schedule your pet’s professional veterinary dental cleaning, so we can ensure they are ready for their screen debut.