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What Happens in a Veterinary Dental Cleaning

What Happens in a Veterinary Dental Cleaning

A professional veterinary dental cleaning is a key component in keeping your pet healthy. Dental disease in pets can lead to the loss of teeth, as well as to serious health conditions such as heart, lung and kidney disease.

Here is what happens in a typical professional veterinary dental cleaning:

Exam and Pre-Anesthetic Blood Work

To ensure your pet is healthy enough for a dental cleaning, your veterinarian will perform a health exam and preanesthetic blood work.

Anesthesia is a key component of a professional veterinary dental cleaning; a pet cannot be expected to willingly keep its mouth open for as long as an hour, especially when scaling tools will be used to scrape its teeth. Anesthetizing your pet also keeps the veterinary staff safe from a potential bite.

Preanesthetic blood work will determine whether the pet is sufficiently hydrated and that its kidneys are functioning well enough to undergo anesthesia.


Once your pet is under anesthesia, your veterinarian might take dental X-rays, which can show problem areas to be addressed during the cleaning, as well as teeth that may need to be extracted.


Scaling, Tooth Assessment & Extractions

Using scaling tools, plaque and tartar are removed from your pet's teeth both above and below the gum line. Each tooth and the gums are evaluated for disease.

This exam, along with X-rays, are used to determine if any teeth may need to be extracted. Typically, teeth are extracted only when keeping them in the mouth will lead to further disease and pain for the pet.

Depending on what procedures are done, antibiotics and/or pain medication may be administered.


The final step is polishing the teeth, which makes it harder for bacteria to adhere to them.

Following up a professional veterinary cleaning with home care, including brushing your pet’s teeth daily, will help keep your pet’s teeth—and your pet—healthy!

Updated: February 11, 2023