Your pet’s dental health is as important as your own and, while they may not need to visit a dentist twice a year, they still need regular professional dental cleanings. One of the best ways to ensure your pet’s optimal oral health and no hidden painful periodontal problems is by scheduling an oral exam and professional cleaning. However, the time between dental cleanings varies from pet to pet, so how do you know what is best for your pet? Read on to see what our Dove Mountain Veterinary team takes into account when determining how often your pet needs a professional dental cleaning.

What determines how often my pet needs a professional dental cleaning?

Several factors help determine the frequency of your pet’s dental cleanings. While the general rule of thumb is that most pets require annual dental cleanings, the amount of time between cleanings varies from pet to pet, based on:

  • Age — Older pets typically require more frequent dental cleaning, because of increased wear and tear on their teeth as they age.
  • Breed and size — Smaller pets and flat-faced breeds generally have poor dental health and need their teeth cleaned more often.
  • Lifestyle — Heavy-chewing pets generate more enamel damage, which requires more frequent cleanings.
  • At-home dental care — Pets who have their teeth brushed daily and receive other at-home dental care can enjoy a prolonged period between dental cleanings.
  • Health conditions — Certain health issues, like autoimmune and some infectious diseases, cause increased oral inflammation and infection.

When should my pet have their first professional dental cleaning?

The majority of pets—up to 85%—have dental disease by age 3, so most dogs and cats should have their first dental cleaning between 2 and 3 years of age. Small breeds and brachycephalic pets (i.e., those with flat faces) should have their initial dental cleaning by 2 years of age, possibly sooner, depending on the severity of tooth overcrowding or bite malocclusion. Pets who have persistent deciduous teeth, or baby teeth that do not fall out when their adult teeth come in, typically need these teeth extracted and the surrounding teeth cleaned when they are between 6 to 8 months old.

At each vaccination visit, your puppy will also receive a physical exam, and by monitoring development of their oral anatomy and teeth, we can determine a general idea of the best time for your pet’s first dental cleaning.

How often should my young pet have professional dental cleanings?

Young pets typically do not require many, if any, professional dental cleanings, unless they have abnormal dentition that creates overcrowding or damages teeth. Then, they will need early, routine dental cleanings to minimize tartar accumulation and to preserve oral health. 

Small breeds and flat-faced pets may require dental cleanings starting as young as 6 months, and then biannually. Kittens with infectious diseases, such as feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), feline leukemia virus (FeLV), or feline calicivirus (FCV), can develop severe gingivitis and may require early, frequent, dental cleanings to remove as much oral bacteria as possible. Large breeds, except for greyhounds, who are prone to dental disease, may not need professional dental cleanings until they are 3 years old. Keep in mind that while a young pet may not have much visible tartar, a great deal of dental disease may be hidden below the gum line, where 60% of the tooth structure lies.

How often should my middle-aged pet have professional dental cleanings?

Middle-aged pets accumulate tartar faster than their younger counterparts, as their teeth have gone through a few years of wear and tear, and irregular surfaces that attract sticky bacteria have been created. Your pet who is between 4 and 7 years of age may need dental cleanings yearly, if not more often, to stay on top of their oral health. Pets in this age category can also develop oral masses, gingival hyperplasia, and other health issues that require more frequent dental exams and cleanings.

How often should my senior pet have professional dental cleanings?

Pets older than 7 years require the most frequent veterinary dental health care to ward off disease. Their aging bodies increase their risk for developing autoimmune issues, oral cancer, and other health conditions that can adversely affect their dental health. Therefore, senior pets should receive comprehensive physical exams, including oral exams, twice a year. Senior pets who have had past dental issues should have oral exams every three months to closely monitor their health and prevent oral bacteria from causing undue pain and infection, especially as oral bacteria can harm the heart, kidneys, and liver. Your senior pet’s dental disease grade will be based on oral exam findings, and will determine how frequently they require professional dental cleanings. 

If you are unsure when your pet should have their teeth professionally cleaned, call our Dove Mountain Veterinary team for advice, or to schedule your pet’s oral exam.