Indianapolis veterinarian discusses pet dental hygiene
Who we talked to
The Indianapolis native began working as a veterinary assistant at age 15, and after graduating from Purdue University in 2005, he fulfilled his dream by accepting a position at Broad Ripple Animal Clinic, specializing in dentistry and surgery.
Why should pets get regular dental care?
"It's as important for animals to have healthy teeth and gums as it is for us. They suffer the same oral diseases we do."
How often should dental cleanings be performed?
"During a physical exam, which we recommend every six months, we'll do an assessment and decide if a cleaning is needed. Usually it's required every year or two."
What's the process when you provide a cleaning?
"It's the same as the process for people, but under general anesthesia. We use anesthesia so we can be thorough - animals can't sit for long with their mouths open - and for safety, because it's very easy to be accidentally bitten.
For cleanings, we'll do pre-anesthetic blood tests to be sure the animal is healthy enough to be put under. On the day of the appointment, we'll examine them again to make sure they're still healthy enough to anesthetize.
When they're under, they're placed on a body-warming blanket and hooked up to electrocardiogram, blood pressure and oxygen-level monitors, just like a major surgery.
Then we'll do a full ultrasonic scaling, clean along and under the gum line, polish the teeth, provide a fluoride treatment and do a full oral exam. If we detect any problems, we'll do X-rays."
How much should people expect to pay for a routine cleaning?
"The cleaning isn't that expensive, but the anesthesia's cost varies based on the animal's weight. Usually it's a couple hundred dollars. But it helps prevent more expensive health issues down the line."
What can pet owners do at home to keep their pet's teeth healthy?
"For dogs, buy dog toothpaste or tartar-reducing treats. Don't use human toothpaste; the fluoride will make them throw up.
I recommend taking some gauze with toothpaste and rub the easily accessible outside tooth surfaces with your finger.
You can do the same for cats, but they're more resistant, so you can use dental treats or a bacteria-fighting water additive. Preventative oral care at least every other day will help your pets go much longer between cleanings."