Teeth Cleaning & Dental Care

What are the signs of dental problems in dogs & cats?

  • Bad breath (normal dog & cat breath has no smell)
  • Brown staining on teeth (called tartar or calculus)
  • Red gums especially where they meet the teeth (gingivitis)
  • Avoidance of chewing hard or large items

Pets don’t stop eating.
Pets don’t tell you it hurts.

No matter how bad they get, bad teeth and gums don’t stop an animal from eating and they never complain.

How do you know if a dog or cat needs dentistry?

  • Make a habit of checking under your pet’s lips
  • Look for bad breath, gingivitis or brown staining
  • Ask your vet’s advice at each checkup
  • Learn how to assess the severity…

By assessing the grade you can decide on the right action.

Grades of Periodontal Disease

dog dental decayGrade 0: no gingivitis or loss of attachment. Minimal to no tartar.


Grade 1: mild gingivitis (red gums) and tartar accumulation, no loss of attachment.

Still fully reversible, action required.

Grade 2: discomfort, moderate gingivitis and tartar accumulation, early loss of periodontal ligament & bone holding tooth in socket.

Still manageable, urgent action required.

Grade 3: pain, severe gingivitis and tartar accumulation, deep loss of attachment of teeth.

Tooth may be saved but will require significant effort.

Grade 4: severe pain, severe gingivitis and tartar accumulation, almost complete loss of attachment, teeth mobile.

Extraction of teeth necessary for welfare.

What Are The Dental Cleaning Options?

Please read our full articles on keeping dogs teeth clean and keeping cats teeth clean. Choices include:

These home care options only work in some pets, and only for Grade 0 and some Grade 1 cases.

All dogs & cats at grades 2 and over require veterinary dental cleaning. Xrays are recommended, and inexpensive, but not essential.cat dental xray

Most grade 1 cases should also have dental cleaning because:

  • Owners have already tried the home care options
  • Tartar is a hard mineral which generally doesn’t come off
  • This is the last reversible stage, any further progression is likely to lead to eventual tooth loss
  • Grading done on a conscious physical usually underestimates the severity

What Is A Veterinary Dental Clean?

The steps in every dental clean are:

  • Preoperative health assessment + optional blood testing
  • Placement of intravenous fluid line
  • Anaesthetic administration and maintenance
  • Probing and charting all the teeth to plan the procedure +/- xrays
  • (at this stage we call you if anything unexpected is found)
  • Ultrasonic and sub gingival scaling
  • Polishing
  • Anaesthetic recovery

Read more about how we make anaesthetics safe here.

What Is Anaesthesia Free Dental Cleaning?

Is an anaesthetic really necessary? Non Anaesthetic Dental Scaling (NADS) has recently become available in Adelaide.

NADS is a cosmetic procedure being sold to dog owners as a safe alternative to anaesthesia, creating unnecessary worries about anaesthetic safety.

We stress that this is not a cleaning procedure. It is neither cheap nor effective beyond removing tartar from the accessible tooth surfaces. Read more about anaesthetic free dentistry and watch a video here.

The next time you are having a dental clean at your (human) dentist, consider whether any dog would or should tolerate the experience willingly. Anaesthesia is both a tool to allow a thorough inspection and clean, but also a humane option to prevent restraint, stress, pain or anxiety.

Insist on staying with your dog throughout the procedure. If they refuse, ask yourself why this might be so.

You have our word: if we could live in a world where no pets needed dentistry, we’d be happy vets. We do it because it’s important for the health of pets. When the other dental cleaning options aren’t possible or effective, NADS is not the answer.

How Much Does Dental Cleaning Cost?

Our fees are predictable, as long as no teeth need removal. If this happens, we’ll always call first to discuss any options you may have.

Dental Scale and Polish (Dog): $393.10 (takes 30 minutes)

Dental Scale and Polish (Cat): $316.75 (takes 20 minutes)

Prices include preoperative health checkup, anaesthetic and intravenous fluids

For Grade 2 Periodontal Disease and above, we recommend dental X-rays for a set fee of $70.40 (unlimited views). This is recommended, but you are welcome to say no.

How Do Dogs & Cats Cope Without Teeth?

Our aim is always to save teeth and keep pets chewing.

Vets only remove a tooth if your pet is going to be happier, more comfortable and eat better without it.

If removing a tooth is necessary, your pet’s gums will quickly harden and they can usually still chew. They will certainly eat better without a painful tooth.

Infection from bad teeth also causes a general feeling of illness, and can easily spread to other vital organs. Most people find that their dog or cat is visibly brighter and more playful after bad teeth are removed.