It’s a common misconception that dogs clean their teeth naturally as they chew on toys or treats. Just like humans, dogs also have plaque and tartar buildup that leads to bad breath and poor oral health.
If you hold off on dog teeth cleaning costs and let the problem go unchecked, it could lead to some major consequences, including tooth loss and gum disease. Even if you brush their teeth regularly, they still need a trained veterinarian to perform the procedure and clean beneath the surface.
We'll go over the benefits and costs of dog teeth cleaning, followed by tips to save money before scheduling a dog dental appointment nearby.
Typically, dog teeth cleaning costs between $300 to $700, which doesn’t include special treatments for periodontal disease or tooth extractions. These extras can add several hundred dollars to the total vet visit cost.
A canine dental cleaning costs $300 - $700
Typically, a professional teeth cleaning for dogs includes:
If your dog has been previously diagnosed with dental problems, your veterinarian may recommend additional treatments and more frequent cleanings.
Some pet parents believe they might be able to save money at the vet and prevent their loved one from going under with nonanesthetic dentistry (NAD). However, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) considers this practice unprofessional, unsafe, and ineffective for several reasons:
These are a few examples that explain why no AAHA-affiliated veterinarian may perform a dog teeth cleaning without anesthesia, or they risk losing their certification.
If you're worried about the possible risks and side effects of dog dental cleaning, know that your trained veterinary team is tasked with monitoring your pet's vital signs during and after sedation. Most dogs recover from dental anesthesia within 15 to 20 minutes after the procedure. Then, they will rest comfortably in a cage for a few hours for continued monitoring and typically go home the same day.
Brushing your dog’s teeth in between vet visits can really help with preventing plaque and tartar buildup, but having your dog’s teeth professionally cleaned by your veterinarian is also necessary to prevent dental disease as it is more thorough and effective. Regular dog dental care is particularly important for small dog breeds who are more prone to oral health problems, as well as dogs that eat only wet food.
Even with the most cooperative pet, brushing at home cannot fully clean your dog’s teeth. This is why during a professional dental cleaning, your veterinarian will place your dog under general anesthesia, to do a deep, 360 degree clean of every tooth, as long as they’ve determined that your dog is healthy enough for anesthesia.
While your dog is under anesthesia, your veterinarian can remove tartar buildup below the gum line, which is out of reach when a dog is awake. Most dental diseases in dogs occur below the gumline, so this is an important benefit to having a vet clean your dog’s teeth that cannot be achieved through other oral healthcare.
Your veterinarian also has the medical training and experience to identify dental issues, such as gum disease or periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease is characterized by painful inflammation of the tissues surrounding the teeth and is extremely common. It’s estimated that two-thirds of dogs over the age of three have periodontal disease, making it crucial that dental cleanings begin during puppyhood and are done regularly at your vet’s recommendation.
Prevention through regular dog dental cleanings and at home teeth brushing is essential to avoid significant oral health problems later in your loved one's life.
Brushing your dog’s teeth can be tricky at first, but most dogs will get used to it. Use special canine toothpaste in an appetizing flavor, such as peanut butter or poultry, to encourage their cooperation with this. Talk to your vet to ensure you are using toothpaste made specifically for dogs, ingesting human toothpaste can be very bad for your dog’s health.
By brushing your dog’s teeth regularly, you can help them to avoid painful and expensive dental procedures in the future. Start slow and first get your dog used to the yummy flavor of the toothpaste on your finger as they get more used to your fingers in and around their mouth. Brushing first with just your finger and the doggy toothpaste until they are comfortable with you touching all 42 of their teeth, even the ones in the very back, will make it much easier to then introduce the toothbrush into the equation.
Remember to be patient. Work on brushing your dog's teeth a few minutes per week and build up to once a day as they get more comfortable. And always feel free to reach out to your veterinary hospital for tips or recommended products, many vets sell their preferred brands of canine toothpaste and toothbrushes in the clinic.
Also, there are many dental chews and dental toys on the market for dogs. Dental chews and treats are fun for your dog, help with bad breath, and minimize the plaque and tartar buildup on the teeth.
If your dog has a significant problem with plaque, your veterinarian may recommend a special diet. These diets typically consist of specially shaped kibbles that will work to both mechanically and chemically break down plaque and tartar buildup.
Dental care products for dogs are usually available right at your favorite vet’s office, but can be found at most speciality pet stores or large retailers, like Walmart or Amazon. If you aren’t buying from your vet’s office or online pharmacy, be sure to take a close look at the ingredients in the dental product before giving it to your dog.
Remember, it’s crucial that you do not use human toothpaste, as many contain xylitol and harsh detergents which are toxic ingredients to dogs. You should also avoid chews or bones made out of starches, like corn or potato, to avoid scratching your dog’s teeth and gums, particularly if they have poor dental health.
Here are a few safe options:
Try dog toothpastes containing at least one of the following ingredients:
If your dog refuses to let you brush their teeth after several attempts, try dog dental wipes. These are simply rubbed directly against your dog’s teeth and gums to help control plaque.
Oral gels and rinses are also available. Look for products with chlorhexidine, which is highly effective in preventing plaque buildup. We recommend a flavored option, as these oral gels and rinses can have a displeasing taste. And again, be sure you are getting a veterinary endorsed product specifically for dogs.
Caring for your dog’s teeth at home is important, but ultimately regular professional dental cleanings are paramount for keeping your dog’s mouth healthy and disease-free.
When looking into regular dental care for your dog, know that you can use pet insurance to get reimbursed on the costs. Accident and illness plans can cover illness-related cleaning, peridontal disease, and tooth extractions. For most families in the US, dog insurance is worth it - considering many cannot afford unexpected veterinary costs. For routine cleanings, wellness plan add-ons will reimburse up to $100-$200 annually for dental cleanings.
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Aliyah Diamond has more than ten years of experience in animal hospitals - working with dozens of species from dogs and cats, to elephants and snow leopards. Her lifelong passion for helping animals currently has her earning her doctorate of veterinary medicine at Cornell University and helping Pawlicy Advisor educate pet parents.