How Often Should Dogs Get Their Teeth Cleaned & When Should They Have Their First Cleaning?

Medical articles
poodle with a tooth brush

Providing dental care for pets should be a priority for owners, but how often should you get your dog's teeth cleaned? According to most veterinarians, about once a year is ideal. But many dog owners admit to not getting their dogs' teeth cleaned that often. 

 Dog teeth cleaning can be an expensive, time-consuming chore, but it's worth it to keep your furry friend's mouth healthy and happy. But good dental hygiene is essential for your dog's overall health. Dogs with poor dental hygiene are more likely to develop gum disease, tooth loss, and other health problems. These problems can be painful and expensive to treat, so it's worth it to invest in regular teeth cleaning for your dog. 

So, how often should you get your dog's teeth cleaned? Well, it depends. If your dog has breath that could melt the paint off a car, you might want to consider more frequent cleanings. But if your dog's breath is still relatively bearable, once a year is probably sufficient. 

How Often Should You Get Your Dog’s Teeth Cleaned?

Different dogs have different needs, so it’s important to talk to your vet about when it’s time for your dog’s dental cleaning. Here are some factors that can influence the schedule of professional cleaning under anesthesia.  

Age of your dog

As you might be able to guess, older dogs usually need more dental attention than younger ones, though that’s not always the case. Dogs as young as two years old might need a dental cleaning (especially smaller dogs, more to come on that below). But keep in mind: although some dogs don’t need a dental before age of six or seven, getting started early is a good way to keep up on your dog’s oral health. 

If you make sure to do dentals regularly while your dog is healthy, he’ll be much better off in the event you have to stop doing them later on due to declining health. And while you don’t want to put your senior under anesthesia more than you have to, he can still go under safely, even with underlying health conditions, the vet may just have to adjust anesthesia protocols.  

Bottom line: there’s not necessarily an “upper limit” for dentals (our 13-year-old Chihuahua mix just had one); it’s more about looking at age as one part of the whole picture. 

When Should My Dog Have His First Teeth Cleaning? 

Veterinarians recommend that most dogs and cats should have their first dental cleaning around 2-3 years of age. However, small breed dogs should start no later than two years of age, as they are more prone to dental problems. Establishing a dental care routine early in your pet’s life can help minimize the risks of periodontal disease and other oral health issues. Consult with your veterinarian to create a personalized dental cleaning schedule based on your dog’s unique requirements. 

Dog Breed and Dental Cleaning Frequency

Smaller dogs need dental cleanings more often than larger dogs, and there are several reasons why. First, their teeth, relative to their mouths, are big, which causes major overcrowding. Smaller breeds are also known for hanging onto their baby teeth in addition to their adult teeth (we see it a lot in Yorkies), which adds to the crowding. That, in turn, leads to more places tartar can build up. Given that their roots are very shallow, any level of periodontal disease can impact them more severely than larger dogs. Short-nosed dogs like PugsBrussels GriffonsShih Tzus, and Bulldogs are particularly afflicted.

Small dogs are also prone to deformed permanent teeth, which gives more places for tartar to hide, and oddly-shaped roots often lead to endodontic disease.

Another concern for all dogs, though most common in small breeds, is malocclusion. That’s where the jaws aren’t aligned properly, often bred that way on purpose. This causes abnormal alignment and contact that leads to dental disease. Dogs of all sizes, such as GreyhoundsCollies/Shelties, and Dachshunds are notorious for this.

A Quick Look at Your Dog’s Teeth Cleaning Process 

Knowing what’s involved in your dog’s teeth cleaning can ease your mind and help your furry friend stay comfy. Here’s a brief rundown of the process: 

Anesthesia: To keep your dog relaxed and pain-free during the cleaning, they’ll be put under anesthesia. This means a deeper and more thorough cleaning without any stress for your pup. 

Blood Tests: Before the cleaning, your vet may run some blood tests to double-check that your dog is good to go with anesthesia. If there are any underlying issues, they’ll make necessary adjustments or postpone the procedure. 

Cleaning and X-rays: The vet removes plaque and tartar from your dog’s teeth and polishes them to perfection. They might also do dental X-rays to spot any hidden issues that need extra care, like fractures or abscesses. 

Aftercare: Once the cleaning is done, your vet will fill you in on post-procedure care. This will usually involve watching your dog recover from anesthesia, feeding them soft food for a few days, and keeping an eye out for any discomfort. 

By understanding the teeth cleaning process, you’re helping your dog have a relaxed and stress-free experience - and that keeps their teeth and overall health in tip-top shape! 

Daily Maintenance and Routine Care for Dog Teeth Cleaning 

Brushing your dog’s teeth and letting him chew on raw bones is an important part of his dental health. If you can only get one of these accomplished, so be it – but do it often. There are tons of options out there, so find something that works for you and your dog. Start training early, be consistent, and reward them. 

You can use brushes or gloves, with or without paste. You can even just use a bit of wet baking soda on a gauze pad and wipe his teeth with that. There are also dental treats and supplements you can offer your pup. Experiment to see what they like best! If your dog is getting daily (or close to daily) bone chewing and/or brushing, they will need professional dental cleaning far less often than dogs who don’t get this type of care and maintenance. 

Dog's Diet

Your dog’s diet influences his oral health. Be careful with starchy foods that can get caught in the crevices between their teeth. A lot of people recommend raw diets with lots of raw bones for this reason. But even if you don’t feed raw, you can give your dog raw veggies as snacks and treats, which are great for daily crunching. If your dog has a diet of starchy kibble or that’s a bit more grain-based, he will definitely need more dental care. Regular brushing will really help with this. If you’re not doing that, it could speed up the time between dental procedures. If you know you aren’t going to brush your dog’s teeth a lot, you might want to consider a diet high in raw bones and veggies.

Picking the Perfect Chew Toys for Better Dental Health 

Choosing the right chew toys for your dog is essential for maintaining their dental health. Opt for toys made of soft, flexible materials to protect their teeth and gums. Consider your dog’s size when selecting toys to avoid choking hazards or toys that are too large for them to enjoy. Keep in mind your dog’s chewing habits and preferences and choose toys that match their chewing style. 

Keeping Things Fresh and Fun 

To keep your dog interested and engaged, provide a variety of chew toys. From puzzle toys to dental chews, there are countless options to explore that will help keep their teeth clean. Mixing up the types of toys you give your dog ensures a fun and stimulating chewing experience. 

Supervising Your Dog’s Chew Time 

It’s crucial to monitor your dog as they chew, especially when introducing new toys. Supervising playtime allows you to step in and remove a toy if it becomes damaged or poses a risk to your pet’s safety. Watching your dog while they chew not only protects their dental health but also ensures an overall fun and safe playtime. 

Wellness Pet Plan Helps with Preventative Teeth Cleaning

When considering teeth cleaning plans for your dog there are a few options to help prepare for your pet’s routine health care to keep them happy and healthy. Most comprehensive dog insurance policies only cover accidents and illnesses, not dental care. That is why Embrace offers our pet wellness † preventative care plan as a reimbursement plan to pair with your accident and illness policy. With Wellness Rewards, your dog’s teeth cleaning can be a reimbursable item from your yearly budget, similar to a health savings account.

Dental cleanings are a vital part of your dog's overall health and well-being. They help to remove plaque and tartar buildup, which can lead to gum disease and tooth loss. But dental cleanings can also be a bit of a hassle. Your dog may not be too thrilled about brushing their teeth, and the vet's office can be a bit scary. 

But don't worry, your dog will thank you for it in the long run. A healthy mouth means a happy dog. And who doesn't want a happy dog? 

So next time your dog is due for a dental cleaning, don't fret. Your Wellness Rewards program has you covered. Just think of all the sloppy kisses you'll be getting in the future.