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Pet Dental Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

You Have Questions. We Can Help!

At the Animal Dental Center we understand you may have questions about your pet’s dental needs and what kind of veterinary dental care they require. It’s important to know what to expect about logistics, who will be caring for your pet, cost of treatment, and follow-up. We’ve assembled some of our frequently-asked pet dental FAQ to help you learn more. If you have further questions or think your pet needs an exam, please contact us.

pet dental faq | Animal Dental Center

Broken or fractured teeth are a common finding in veterinary practices. Objects that are notorious for breaking teeth include cow hooves, real bones, rocks, ice, large knotted rawhides, and hard plastic/nyla-bones. The result is often fracture of a tooth that may or may not extend into the pulp canal of the tooth. The pulp canal is the chamber within the tooth that houses the pulp tissue, blood vessels and nerves. If the fracture exposes the pulp canal, which houses the blood and nerve supply to the tooth, the tooth will be acutely painful. Most pets, however, do not show obvious signs of tooth pain, even when there is severe dental disease. These pets will typically chew on the other side of the mouth or avoid using the broken tooth until the nerve dies in a matter of weeks to months. Once the nerve dies, the open pulp canal is an area that food, saliva, debris, and bacteria enter the tooth resulting in an infection of the pulp tissue. The root of the tooth then becomes infected and will eventually abscess. The pain associated with the broken tooth changes from an acute pain to a chronic pain. Antibiotics will help control the infection temporarily, but the problem recurs after discontinuing the medication. The infection will persist until the source of the infection, the infected pulp, is removed either by extracting the tooth or by root canal therapy. We advise root canal treatment for most abscessed teeth.

Periodontal disease is considered by many veterinarians to be the most common disease that affects pets. Most cats and dogs develop plaque, calculus, and gingivitis by the time they are 1 year of age. Lack of oral hygiene is probably the most significant reason for the development of periodontal disease in companion animals. Periodontal disease results in inflammation and destruction of the tissues around the tooth. The periodontal tissues include: the gums, connective tissue, and alveolar bone (tooth socket). Gingivitis, inflammation of the gums, is the first stage of periodontal disease. As periodontal disease progresses there is destruction of tissue attachment between tooth and the surrounding tissues. There is visible inflammation and the loss of bone around the tooth. The loss of gum tissue attachment and bone results in “pockets” of disease below the gum line. This is called periodontal disease. Untreated periodontal disease is a constant source of infection for the rest of the body. Eventually, it leads to weakened areas of bone, mobile teeth, and tooth loss. Keeping your pets teeth clean is the best way to treat and prevent periodontal disease. Because, the periodontal disease is hidden below the gum line, a professional teeth cleaning with dental x-rays, under anesthesia is the only way to properly diagnose and treat periodontal disease.

Most veterinarians perform general dental examinations, teeth cleaning and extraction of diseased teeth. A veterinary dentist is a veterinarian that has completed additional training and board certification in dentistry. Since the veterinary dentist is trained in oral surgery, medicine and dentistry, a wide range of special treatment options can be offered for dogs and cats with oral and dental problems. In some instances a veterinary dentist can offer alternatives to tooth extraction not available at a general veterinary office.

Most veterinarians perform general dental examinations, teeth cleaning and extraction of diseased teeth. A veterinary dentist is a veterinarian that has completed additional training and board certification in dentistry. Since the veterinary dentist is trained in oral surgery, medicine and dentistry, a wide range of special treatment options can be offered for dogs and cats with oral and dental problems. In some instances a veterinary dentist can offer alternatives to tooth extraction not available at a general veterinary office.

A complete dental examination, teeth cleaning, and dental x-rays cannot be performed on a dog or cat without anesthesia. Groomers or other organizations which claim to clean a pet’s teeth do not clean between the teeth, under the gum-line or take x-rays of the teeth. Not cleaning these areas will lead to chronic periodontal disease. This chronic infection under the gum line will lead to abscessed teeth and can harm the heart, kidneys and other vital organ systems. Anesthesia is most clients’ number one concern and most common reason for resisting having dental procedures done on their pets. We recognize this is a legitimate concern for pet owners and try to make every attempt to make anesthesia as safe as possible. A board certified veterinary anesthesiologist, Dr. Victoria Lukasik, is available in our office for consultation. She is available for high risk patients with special anesthesia needs. Read about the risks of anesthesia free pet dental care.

We frequently meet pet owners worried about anesthesia since another veterinarian has previously told them that their pet was “too old for anesthesia.” Let’s consider the facts with regard to age and anesthesia risks. Age is not a disease and does not directly reflect health status. We all know of healthy older people (or pets) and young people with poor health. Our doctors prefer to evaluate each pet individually to accurately assess health status. Anesthesia is individualized for patients based on their health. Health problems are addressed with well-planned anesthesia protocols. Our doctors choose anesthetic drugs based on the pet’s health status to help avoid problems with anesthesia.


Fortunately patients with health problems can have safe anesthesia and receive excellent dental care! The risks of anesthesia are substantially reduced by the veterinary professionals providing care. Anesthetic related death in pets is estimated to be less than 1%. The likelihood of pain and suffering from untreated disease approaches 100%. We prefer to treat dental disease to avoid unnecessary suffering. It is well worth the risk! Do we want our companions to live a long life with chronic pain? The services of a Board Certified anesthesiologist are available at our office if requested or needed.

After the initial oral examination is performed, an initial treatment plan is determined. The doctor will discuss different treatment options and you will be able to decide on a dental treatment plan that best suits your dog or cat. A comprehensive pet dental cleaning at the Animal Dental Center, involves removal of plaque and calculus either with hand instruments, or sonic/ultrasonic instruments above and below the gingival margin, periodontal probing, intra-oral radiographs, charting, and more involved treatment such as deep periodontal therapy or extractions if indicated. For more information visit our pet dental cleaning pages.

Every patient is different, and an initial treatment plan will be determined after your pet’s initial oral examination. The doctor will discuss the different treatment options best suited to your pet and you will be able to decide on a dental treatment plan at that time.

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As a referral facility, the Animal Dental Center does not provide routine veterinary care. Any pre-operative tests to determine your pet’s anesthetic health risks should be done by the referring vet. Any diagnostic testing related to the oral problem will be completed by our specialty team.


At the Animal Dental Center, your pet’s safety begins with the taking of a thorough patient history followed by a complete physical exam of all the body’s systems. All prior diagnostic tests on the pet are correlated with potential risk factors of the procedures your pet will be undergoing. Diagnostic blood work prior to the procedure allows us to check for any abnormalities that can create anesthetic risks and require special monitoring.

Recognizing the signs of dental disease in your pet is the first step to a healthier pet. For more information and signs that your pet has a dental problem, please visit our 8 warning signs of pet dental disease page.

When you book your pet’s initial consultation, we will talk to you about how to prepare your pet in case he or she will have surgery after the initial consultation. If you scheduled your pet’s procedure on a day other than the initial consultation, you can also expect us to notify you the day before your pet’s surgery with instructions regarding withholding of food and water. As a rule we suggest you take the food away at 8PM the night before the procedure. Your pet can have access to water until he comes in the next morning. We will instruct you on other pertinent information vital to your pet’s procedure such as whether to give or withhold medications your pet is currently taking. As a general rule please continue with your pet’s regular medication schedule even on the morning of the procedure.

General anesthesia is required for the dental procedures we perform on your pets. Thorough examining, xraying, scanning, scaling, probing and advanced dental procedures require your pet to be asleep during the procedure. For more information, please visit our anesthesia pages.

Fractured teeth should never be ignored and all fractured teeth need to be evaluated by our dental team. All fractured teeth can cause pain can become non-vital (dead) and infected. Pets are masters at hiding pain and illnesses so you may not know how bad the tooth really is.

Most pet patients seen in veterinary practice today actually need an annual thorough dental exam and cleaning which includes supragingival and subgingival cleaning, intraoral evaluation, polishing, and further periodontal therapy.

Animal Dental Center concurs with the recommendation of the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Veterinary Dental College and does not recommend the use of anesthesia-free dental care for pets. The term anesthesia-free dental cleaning is misleading because it leaves the impression that after one of these procedures, your pet’s mouth is clean and healthy. Your pet’s teeth may appear whiter after a non-anesthetic dental cleaning but it does not mean your pet is free from oral disease. What you cannot see is actually more important than what you can see. Problems like plaque build-up below the gum line and gingivitis are not properly addressed during a non-anesthetic procedure that only scrapes and polishes the visible crowns of the teeth. Most oral disease happens below the visible surfaces of your dog’s or cat’s mouth. For more information, please visit our position on anesthesia free dentistry page.

Thinking about Anesthesia Free Pet Dentistry?

Call (410) 828-1001 to make an appointment at any of our locations or click below to contact us.

Our doctors are Board Certified Veterinary Dentists™

The board-certified veterinary dentists at Animal Dental Center have the extensive knowledge, expertise, and specialized equipment to determine the extent and severity of your pet’s oral disease and to provide appropriate treatment. You will have peace of mind knowing your pet is receiving a professional dental cleaning, diagnosis through radiographs and treatment of periodontal disease and other oral pathology. This treatment, usually combined with at-home daily oral homecare will also help to prevent future oral disease.
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