Dental Disease FAQ’s

What do you mean when you say Dental Disease?

Dental disease is a general term for any disease that affects the gums, teeth, roots, and underlying bony structures in and around the mouth. The most common type of dental disease in pets is periodontal disease, which is caused by the buildup of plaque and t tartar below the gum line. This buildup can lead to inflammation of the gums and bone loss, which can eventually cause the teeth to fall out.

At SAHO, we evaluate your pet’s oral health at their annual wellness exam. We use a grading system to assess the severity of your pet’s periodontal disease, with grade 1 r representing mild, early periodontal disease and grade 4 representing severe or advanced periodontal disease. This allows us to track the progression of your pet’s dental disease over time and helps us to decide whether a professional dental cleaning is needed.

What causes dental disease in pets?

Dental disease is a progressive condition that begins when bacteria in your pet’s mouth form a sticky film called plaque. Plaque can harden into tartar, which can spread below the gum line and cause inflammation and infection. This infection can damage the tissues that support the teeth, leading to tooth loss and other health problems.

How common are dental problems in pets?

Over 70% of dogs and cats over 5 years of age have periodontal disease, a condition that causes the loss of the supporting structures of the teeth. This can be a painful and uncomfortable process, and can eventually lead to problems such as loose teeth, bacteria in the bloodstream, and damage to the kidneys, heart, and liver.  

In fact, the majority of dogs and cats seen at this practice over the age of 5 years have one or more painful teeth. This is why it is so important to have your pet’s teeth examined and cleaned regularly by a veterinarian. Early detection and treatment of periodontal disease can help to prevent these  serious complications.

Will a dental cleaning fix my pet’s bad breath?

A professional dental cleaning can improve your pet’s breath in the short term, but it is not a permanent solution. Without regular brushing, plaque and tartar will build up again and cause bad breath. Other preventive measures, such as using water additives or dental chews, can help to keep your pet’s breath fresh for l longer, but it is unlikely that their breath will ever be as minty fresh as your own.

How do I know if my dog or cat need to have a dental cleaning (COHAT)?

A SAHO veterinarian will evaluate your pet’s oral health at their annual wellness exam and let you know if they recommend a dental cleaning at that time. The results of your pet’s oral exam will be included in their medical record at each annual exam. This allows us to track the progression of your pet’s dental disease over time and let you know when a cleaning is necessary.

In between annual exams, you can also schedule a free oral evaluation with our technicians. They can advise you on whether a dental cleaning is needed.

You can also upload clear, focused photos of your pets open mouth with good lighting.  You can text this to 918-274-8387 and one of our staff with advise you on whether your pet will benefit from a COHAT. 

You can also follow this link to see other pets mouths to compare your pets mouth:  Insert link to new webpage with dental grades and photos.  

If your pet has had a previous dental cleaning (COHAT) then we will typically schedule you for the next COHAT between 3 months and 2 years, depending on the grade of dental disease.

Does brushing my pet’s teeth do any good?

Home oral hygiene treatments, such as brushing your pet’s teeth with a pet-safe, enzymatic toothpaste, can help to prevent plaque from hardening into tartar. However, brushing cannot remove tartar that has already formed. The only way to remove tartar is with a professional dental cleaning.  So, the best time to start brushing is very early in your pets life and/or right after a dental cleaning to remove tartar. 

How long will it take to clean my pet’s teeth?

Dental cleanings are done as an outpatient procedure. You can drop off your pet in the morning between 7:00 AM and 8:00 AM and pick them up in the mid to late afternoon. Your veterinarian will call you after the cleaning to let you know how it went and the earliest possible pickup time. However, your pet is welcome to stay with us later in the day if that makes it easier for you to pick them up.

Why does my pet need to undergo anesthesia for their dental cleaning? Wouldn’t it be safer to avoid anesthesia?

Although some people believe that anesthesia-free dentistry is possible, the American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC) has determined that it is impossible to do a thorough sub-gingival cleaning without anesthesia. This is because the bacteria that cause dental disease live below the gum line, and it is impossible to remove them without cleaning below the gum line.

Without anesthesia, a sub-gingival cleaning would be painful and scary for many pets. Imagine your dentist probing below your gum line when your gums are sore and inflamed. The experience would be no different for your pet, and we would not want to put them through that.

Anesthesia also makes it possible for us to take dental x-rays, which can show us whether or not there is bone and root damage below the gum line. In some cases, anesthesia may also be necessary to perform oral surgery to treat advanced dental disease.

While no anesthetic procedure is 100% risk-free, we minimize the risks through our anesthesia protocols, continuous monitoring, IV catheters and fluids, and more. We believe that anesthesia is essential to providing your pet with the pain- free, fear-free, and thorough dental care that they deserve.

Can I skip the dental x-rays in order to save money on my pet’s dental cleaning?

The good news is that you don’t have to make this decision because we include the dental x-rays with all of our COHAT’s!  Many veterinarians don’t offer dental x-rays because the equipment is expensive.  Simply put, if you don’t take dental x-rays you will be missing problems under the gum line in MOST pets.  This means you would be putting your pet under anesthesia, pay hundreds of dollars to clean their teeth and they still come home with painful, infected mouths because there were problems missed due to the lack of dental x-rays. 

How much will my pet’s dental cleaning cost?

We try and keep this simple at SAHO.  We refer to a dental cleaning as Comprehensive Oral Health Assessment and Treatment.  Essentially this is a comprehensive dental exam and cleaning under anesthesia which is essentially what happens when you go to the dentist, minute the anesthesia.  We have priced this the same for all pets.  The current price is $299 and includes bloodwork, anesthesia, cleaning, charting, polishing and x-rays.  If we find that any further dental work needs to be performed, we will give you a specific cost and schedule that procedure.  We do not charge for anesthesia again on additions procedures.  If the treatments needed are extensive, we may split it into 2 or 3 more procedures to minimize pain and time under anesthesia.

Can I schedule my pet’s dental cleaning on the weekend?

Currently, no.  But, we do have plans to extend our dentistry offerings to 7 days a week and we will announce as soon as we are able to staff those days appropriately.

How soon can I pick up my pet after their dental cleaning?

We typically shoot for 5pm or later pickups.  We monitor pets closely after anesthesia and make sure they are 100% awake before going home.  Occasionally, older or overweight patients take longer to recover and may have a later discharge time set.  We will keep in communication with you throughout the day of the procedure.  


How often does my pet need to have their teeth cleaned?

This varies between size and age of the pet.  A good rule of thumb is once yearly, however, smaller dogs and cats my need more frequent dental cleaning and larger, chewing breeds my need less frequent.  

You can upload clear, focused photos of your pets open mouth with good lighting.  You can text this to 918-274-8387 and one of our staff with advise you on whether your pet will benefit from a COHAT.  

You can also follow this link to see other pets mouths to compare your pets mouth:  Insert link to new webpage with dental grades and photos.

How do I take care of my pet’s teeth at home between dental cleanings?

Daily brushing is the gold standard and can minimize the number of dental cleanings your pets needs.  That being said, most people are unable to keep up with daily teeth brushing or pets that won’t cooperate but it is completely doable if you know howl. Click the link below to go to our Dental Home Care page with SAHO recommended products and links to purchase them on our online pharmacy. 

My pet does not act painful so how can there be any problems in the mouth?

Dogs and cats experience the same dental pain as humans do they just can’t express it verbally.  What we see is they continue to eat, usually in an area of the mouth that is less or non-painful.  Humans do the same thing. In severe cases, the jaw will spasm when you touch the teeth.  Other signs are dropping dry food or eating canned food when they won’t eat dry food.  Also, a decline or abrupt stop in “mouthing” toys.