Gum disease and tooth decay are as problematic for pets as they are for people. That's why caring for your pet's teeth is an important element of caring for your pet's overall health. Today our Pico Rivera vets share some tips on how to keep your pup's teeth clean and their mouth healthy.

Is pet dental care necessary?

Your pet's oral health, like yours, is an important component of their overall health. By the age of three years, most pets begin to show signs of periodontal disease (gum disease). This early onset of dental disease can hurt their physical health and well-being.

Periodontal disease has been linked to systemic diseases such as heart disease in humans, and this appears to be true for our canine companions as well.

Periodontal disease in pets has been linked to heart disease because bacteria from the mouth enter the bloodstream, potentially causing problems with other organs and impairing heart function. These complications, in addition to the more obvious issue of pain caused by eroded gums and missing or damaged teeth, are a source of concern.

At-home oral health care routines, combined with dental diets and treats, can go a long way toward assisting your pup in cleaning their teeth and controlling plaque and tartar buildup. However, the best way to keep your pet's mouth clean and healthy is to take him to the vet for an annual dental exam and cleaning.

When you prioritize your pet's annual wellness exam, we can be proactive about signs of periodontal diseases, such as gingivitis, bad breath, tooth decay, gum loss, and pain.

If you skip your pet's annual professional cleaning, he or she may develop gingivitis, periodontal disease, bad breath, and, in severe cases, pain, tooth decay, and tooth loss.

How Often Should I Have My pet's Teeth Cleaned?

The frequency with which you should have your pet's teeth cleaned is determined by several factors, including your pet's age, breed, and lifestyle.


Because time, diet, and eating habits all contribute to oral decay, older pets require more dental care than younger pets. If your pet is over the age of seven, you should take them to your veterinarian for an annual exam to ensure their teeth and gums are healthy.

Breed & Size

For dogs, most do not require dental care until they are six or seven years old. But smaller breeds and toy pets may require dental cleanings as young as two years old. This is because their teeth are large in comparison to their mouths, causing overcrowding. Smaller breeds (such as Yorkies) are notorious for retaining both their baby and adult teeth.

Pugs, Bulldogs, Shih Tzus, and other dogs with short faces and noses, for example, are more prone to dental disease. Because small pets' tooth roots are so shallow, any type of periodontal disease can be more severe than in larger pets. Malocclusion, which occurs when the jaws are misaligned and do not connect properly, is another breed-related dental issue.

Larger pets do not have the same dental concerns as small pets, but they are more prone to damaged or cracked teeth as a result of strong chewing habits, which can cause oral pain, loss of appetite, and irritable behavior. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you when and how often your pet should undergo dental care if you schedule regular exams with them.


Your lifestyle and at-home dental health also influence how frequently you should have your pet's teeth cleaned. These precautions may help in the time between professional cleanings if you brush your pet's teeth regularly and feed him dry food or a dental diet. Furthermore, if your pet is not a chewer and eats mostly soft food, they may need to be cleaned more frequently.

What Happens During My pet's Dental Care Appointment?

Our Pico Rivera vets at Pico Rivera Animal Hospital recommend bringing your pet in for an annual wellness exam to help prevent periodontal disease. We will examine their mouth for early signs of disease during this visit. Periodontal disease symptoms include the following:

  • Extra teeth or retained baby teeth
  • Bleeding in or around the mouth
  • Inflamed gums
  • Pain associated with chewing
  • Plaque or tartar buildup on teeth
  • Discolored teeth
  • Loose or broken teeth
  • Drooling
  • Bad breath

If you notice signs of periodontal disease in your pet, be sure to contact your vet right away to schedule a dental assessment for your pet. Oral health issues can become severe if left untreated and cause your pet a great deal of pain and discomfort.

All pets are examined by our veterinarians to ensure that they are healthy enough to be sedated and, if necessary, additional diagnostics are performed to ensure that a dentist is safe for your pet. Once your pet has been safely sedated, we will perform a full oral exam (tooth-by-tooth) with charting (just like your dentist does during your examinations) and x-ray the teeth. For the medical team to understand the extent of periodontal disease beneath the gum line, which typically reveals hidden diseases, X-rays are required.

Once we gather information from the full oral exam, charting, and x-rays, we can create a customized treatment plan for your pet that includes cleaning and polishing your pup’s teeth, both above and below the gum line.

Should I brush my pet's teeth?

As a pet owner, you play a pivotal role in helping your pup fight dental disease. Here are a few easy ways that you can help to keep your pet's teeth clean and healthy:

  • Use a finger brush from your vet or a child’s toothbrush along with specially designed pet toothpaste to brush your pet’s teeth daily to remove any plaque or debris.
  • Use a plaque prevention product (your veterinarian can recommend one) to apply to your pet's teeth and gums or to add to their drinking water. These products act as a barrier to keep plaque from forming.
  • Offer your pup treats such as dental chews or special foods designed to help prevent plaque buildup and tartar.

Dental care is an important part of your pet's overall health. Be sure to book your pet's annual wellness exam today, your pet will thank you. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your pet due for a dental exam and cleaning? Contact our Pico Rivera vets today.