Veterinarian - San Diego
1540 Morena Boulevard
San Diego, CA 92110



By Natalie Kushner
September 04, 2014
Category: Dentistry
Tags: Dental   Teeth   pet dental   dental cleanings   tooth care  


We are all guilty of it.  We have all committed Acts of Apathy.  We drive across the parking lot to re-park our cars in front of an adjacent store instead of walking.  We wait until the day before tax returns are due to start digging for our W2s.  Some of us even skip out on post-lunch flossing.  Worst of all, we all procrastinate on brushing our pets’ teeth.


Now, hold your immediate eye-rolls.  So many excuses immediately pop into our heads when veterinarians suggest a dental cleaning.  The cost!  The anesthesia!  The risk!  (Again,) the cost!  Most of our hesitation comes from myths and misinformation.


Myth #1: My dog is too young to need a dental cleaning.


The first stage of dental disease begins when plaque forms on the tooth, and within days the plaque hardens and produces calculus. Gingivitis begins to infect the gums, and then periodontitis, or bone loss, occurs.  This process happens faster than most people realize.  A study by the American Veterinary Dental Society (AVDS) claims that dental disease is the number one diagnosis in dogs and cats, where 80-percent of dogs and 70-percent of cats have periodontal disease by age 2.  


Myth #2: Vets try to “sell” owners dental cleanings regardless of the pet’s condition.


Dental disease is broken up into two stages: gingivitis and periodontitis.  In the gingival stage, the disease is reversible by consistent, daily brushing to prevent plaque from hardening.  There is hope for fighting dental disease without anesthesia, but the biggest problem for owners is that they rarely have the time, persistence, or comfort-level to brush their pet’s teeth every day. However, once periodontitis begins the disease is irreversible – the bone will not grow back on its own and leaves the root painfully compromised.


Myth #3: I don’t need to be put under anesthesia to get a teeth cleaning, why should it be any different for my pet?


Yes, we’ve heard this statement before.  Although some practices offer “anesthesia-free” dental cleanings to remove calculus from the tooth, this process does not do a thorough job of removing bacteria from beneath the gum line.  A common analogy is trying clean a 12-foot-high garbage bin with equipment that is only six feet long – the bottom of the bin never is fully cleaned, allowing the waste to eventually eat through the container.  Anesthesia not only sedates and calms the pet (as the idea of dentistry has always been a difficult concept to explain to our furry patients), it allows our doctors easy, fast, and painless access to the gums.  Under sedation, we can place a breathing tube in the throat to prevent damaging bacteria from infecting the respiratory system. 


Myth #4: Anesthesia is too dangerous.


While everyone knows someone with a pet that had a negative reaction to anesthesia, the statistics prove these are rare instances.  A well-known British study of more than 98,000 canine anesthetic cases over a two-year period only reported 147 anesthetic-related deaths, around 0.15-percent.  Most of the deaths occurred in patients with severe pre-existing health conditions.  This is another reason periodic blood work isalways recommended by the doctors at Morena Pet Hospital, as well as blood work before undergoing any anesthetic procedure.  Safety is the number one concern of our doctors, and a complete health examination is always performed before an anesthetic procedure to determine if the benefits outweigh the risks. 


Myth #5: My pet already has health issues, so his/her teeth aren’t a priority.


This is a very common misconception!  What most owners do not understand is that leaving severe dental disease unchecked can lead to major health problems in the future.  A study by researchers at the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine showed a significant link between dogs with gum disease and heart disease.  Letting dental disease slide can cause potentially diseases in the kidney, liver, and other major organs.


Myth #6: My pet’s teeth are still pretty white; I’m not worried about dental disease.


The first sign of dental disease is usually bad breath.  Some pets will choose not to chew on a painful side of their mouth, or lose interest in eating altogether.  Also, any attempt at brushing a mouth affected by gingivitis can cause redness, irritation, or bleeding at the gum line.  If you notice any of these symptoms, a veterinarian should examine the teeth and gums right away. 


Myth #7: Dental cleanings are too expensive.


Morena Pet Hospital is offering a dental special in September!  While it is impossible to get an exact figure of any procedure, scheduling a doctor’s exam ahead of time can give you an opportunity to ask specific questions about your pet’s needs and have an accurate, personalized estimate of the procedure.  Only a veterinarian can help you decide what is best for your pet’s condition.  In addition to the dental special, we offer helpful payment options, such as Care Credit, to help finance your pet’s healthcare.  Give us a call today to schedule an appointment – your pet’s healthy, pain-free, fresh-smelling mouth will thank you!




Works Cited

American Veterinary Dental Society. (n.d.). Periodontal Disease in Your Pet. Retrieved Aug 2, 2014, from AVDS Online:

Bellows, D. J. (2007, Apr 12). FAQ: Periodontal Disease. Retrieved 2 Aug, 2014, from Veterinary Partner: Veterinary Information Network:

Bellows, D. J. (2007, Apr 26). FAQ: Toothbrushing and Dental Prophylaxis in Cats and Dogs. Retrieved Aug 2, 2014, from Veterinary Partner: Veterinary Information Network:

D. C. Brodbelt, L. E. (2008, Oct 1). Results of the confidential enquiry into perioperative small animal fatalities regarding risk factors for anesthetic-related death in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 1096-1104.

Dr. Phil Zeltzman, D. D. (2013, Jul 9). How Safe is Anesthesia For Your Pet? Retrieved Aug 1, 2014, from Pet Health Network:

Sen, S. (2009, Apr 9). Purdue professor links gum and heart diseases in dogs. Retrieved Aug 1, 2014, from Purdue University News Service: