By Teresa Traverse
As a concerned dog parent, you want to keep your dog’s teeth in great shape. After all, you visit your dentist for teeth cleanings twice a year and have probably wondered just how often you should take your dog in for dental work. But how much do dog teeth cleanings cost and what goes on in the treatment room?
This dog dental health guide will give you an overview on what you can expect and a general idea of how much you might pay for common dog dental procedures.
Dog Teeth Cleaning: A Vet’s Process
In general, a cleaning with no extractions takes roughly 45 minutes to one hour.
After the vet performs a physical examination and has determined that it’s safe for your dog to receive anesthesia, your dog will be sedated, intubated to maintain a clear airway, and administered oxygen and anesthetic gas. Most veterinarians will also place an intravenous catheter and administer fluids throughout anesthesia to support your dog’s blood pressure and organ health.
The teeth are cleaned with an ultrasonic scaler, a tool that vibrates at a high speed, to remove large pieces of plaque and tartar. A hand scaler is used to clean under the gumline of every tooth and on all sides of the tooth. Dental probes are used to measure the depth of the pockets found between tooth and gum – abnormally deep pockets indicate periodontal disease. Many times, oral radiographs are taken to evaluate the bone around the teeth.
Once all plaque and tartar are removed, the mouth is rinsed and all tooth surfaces are polished. If the teeth are not polished, small etchings left on the teeth from cleaning can attract more plaque and tartar to adhere in the small grooves. After polishing, the mouth is rinsed again and a fluoride treatment can be applied, says Judy Morgan, DVM.
How Much Does Dog Teeth Cleaning Cost?
Dog teeth cleaning costs vary across the board and are influenced by a slew of different factors. If you live in a high cost area, such as a large city, you can expect to pay more. A cleaning might only cost a few hundred dollars, but you might end up paying a few thousand dollars if your pet is having oral surgery like an extraction involving a large tooth. One of the biggest factors behind the high costs? Anesthesia and X-rays.
“Dental X-rays are really important to assessing periodontal disease and the health of teeth below the gum line. Unfortunately, they require anesthesia,” says Glenn Brigden, DVM at Pacific Coast Veterinary Dentistry and Oral Surgery in Encinitas, Calif., and a Diplomat of the American Veterinary Dental College. And anesthesia tends to be pricy.
“Costs can vary significantly with region of the country and degree of dental disease,” says Morgan. “I own two practices in southern New Jersey and our dental prices range from around $500 up to $1,000. These prices do not include oral radiographs, which could add $150 to $200 more.”
Morgan has seen her patients visit veterinary dental specialists for cleaning and extractions that have paid anywhere from $2,000 to $3,000.
“It's difficult to compare pricing because someone with a lower cost may not be providing pre-op screening, IV fluids, or certified technicians,” says Morgan.
Brigden seconded this and said many of the cheaper places may not be performing X-rays, which are important to providing dogs with high quality and thorough dental care.
How Often Should You Get Your Dog’s Teeth Professionally Cleaned?
Brigden recommends getting your dog’s teeth professionally cleaned anywhere from once every six months to once a year, depending on the dog. If you’re taking good care of your dog’s teeth at home, you might be able to get away with not going quite as often. You’ll want to discuss this with your vet to determine the best course of action.
Bad breath is usually the first indicator that you should bring your pet into a vet, says Brigden. Other signs you should watch out for include bleeding gums, seeing blood on chews or difficulty eating.
Post Dog Teeth Cleaning Procedures
Most dogs can generally start eating a regular diet 12 to 48 hours after a cleaning. The anesthesia needs to work itself out of the dog’s body, says Brigden. If he’s performing extractions or major surgery, it might take pets three to five days to fully recover. He recommends softening your pet’s food so he or she can eat it comfortably during this time frame. Your dog may be sent home with pain meds too.
Other Dog Dental Costs to Consider
Some veterinary practices bill for dental work by the type of procedure performed or by the time it takes to complete the procedure, according to Brigden. His practice bills by time since extracting one tooth from one dog might take 10 minutes and extracting another one might take 30 minutes.
Morgan offers a simple breakdown of what you might be charged.
“A simple extraction can be as little as $10 to $15,” says Morgan. “Elevated extractions would be more, depending on the work needed to get the tooth out, but ours range from $25 to $35 per tooth. Teeth with multiple roots that may need to be split with a drill can cost up to $100 per tooth.”
“Root canals are charged by the root,” says Jeff Werber, DVM. “A three-rooted tooth could range between $1,000-$3,000, depending on the root. Teeth like the upper fourth pre molar, which is a three rooted tooth, would essentially be considered three root canals.”
Tips for Caring for Your Dog’s Teeth
“Brushing is the gold standard,” says Brigden. If your dog won’t let you brush his or her teeth, you can try using dog dental sprays or washes, though Brigden cautions that they’re not as effective. Smaller dogs are more prone to periodontal disease due to teeth crowding in the mouth. Breeds like Dachshunds, Yorkies and Chihuahuas have the most problems, he says.
“Crowding retains more plaque. And more plaque retention leads to periodontal disease,” says Brigden.
You’ll also want to give your dogs something to chew on. Brigden says dental treats are great, but chew toys are also a good option. In his opinion, anything that you can break, bend or flex in your hands is OK. If the chew toy is not flexible enough, it could chip or crack your dog’s teeth.
“Periodontal health is just as important in dogs and cats as it is in us. It’s not an area that should be ignored. But sometimes it is,” says Brigden. “Fortunately, in the last 10 to 15 years, dentistry has grown significantly and people recognize the importance of keeping their pets healthy.”