Disclaimer: A thorough dental cleaning under anesthesia, and brushing your dog’s teeth, is considered the “gold standard” by veterinarians for maintaining your pup’s oral health. I am not claiming that there is a direct replacement for that. However, some people don’t brush their dog’s teeth, or choose not to put their dogs under anesthesia (for health or personal reasons), so I wanted to share my experience with an alternate method that is better than doing nothing at all.
Yup, you read that right – I. Do. Not. Brush. My. Dog’s. Teeth. I won’t.
Yeah, I know that a build up of plaque and tartar can lead do gum disease, missing teeth, and illness. The thing is that I have a hard enough time committing to brushing my own teeth every day. Look, I love Chester and Gretel but I know myself good enough to know that it just isn’t going to happen.
Oh, I have bought a finger toothbrush and yummy vanilla toothpaste (affiliate link) before to try and brush their teeth with. That lasted about once. Chester hated it. I didn’t enjoy it much either and I didn’t have the time or patience to “get him used to it”.
I have bought sprays and gels with “active enzymes” (affiliate link) but the struggle with prying open strong Doxie jaws while trying to shoot the stuff into their mouth always resulted with more goop on me than in them. Think Something About Mary crossed with The Exorcist.
I do pay attention to their teeth though. Chester and Gretel had a checkup of their teeth last year at the vet. The vet was amazed at how clean Chester’s teeth were. I chalk it up to all of the sock and underwear dental floss he uses 🙂 Gretel’s teeth have always been a little worse than Chester’s even though she is younger than him. Still though, I ask my vet every time we go in if I should have her teeth professionally cleaned and she said they weren’t at the point of needing it.
Their teeth WERE pretty good anyway…until I started feeding the dogs grain-free food. A year later they were horrible.
It didn’t make a lot of sense because I thought feeding grain-free food was supposed to be better. The vet said Chester was just a “fluke” because that was not supposed to happen or blamed it on some kind of weird plaque-attracting mouth bacteria he must have mysteriously picked up. One of my Doxie friends said that a high protein diet will do that because the dog’s saliva reacts with the protein somehow and makes it stick to teeth (UPDATE: I don’t know if I buy that one because he now eats raw food – which is very high protein – and his teeth are cleaner than they were with kibble).
I wanted to knock the problem down before it did cause a gum, tooth or health problem. Our vet does teeth cleaning. Sedating a dog with anesthesia is expensive.
How Much Does It Cost to Get’s Your Dog’s Teeth Cleaned? (read the comments for reports from around the country)
I’m not made of money but cost is generally not a factor when it comes to taking care of my babies. However, the thought of putting my 14-year old dog under anesthesia when the vet did not say it was medically necessary was a little unnerving.
I had heard about “anesthesia-free” teeth cleaning. I heard that it did a good job cleaning a dog’s teeth but that it’s not as thorough as a deep cleaning with anesthesia. Since I was just going for “mostly clean” (because, remember, I was using this method in the place of brushing, which also only gets a dog’s teeth “mostly clean”) that was ok with me. I also heard it was cheaper than cleaning under anesthesia – only $165 – BUT it is recommended that it be done twice a year… so it’s not that much cheaper, if at all.
Note: Anesthesia-free teeth cleaning is very controversial. To understand the arguments, and my thoughts on them, read my article Anesthesia-Free Teeth Cleaning is Not Evil.
I thought I would give anesthesia-free teeth cleaning a shot since Chester had no existing tooth or gum problems and I just needed to get his teeth mostly clean. He was also a good candidate because he is a calm guy that loves people…even if they are poking him with sharp objects 🙂 All the Best Pet Care in Seattle has a doggy dentist technician, who is overseen by a veterinarian, that visits once a month and performs this anesthesia-free dental cleaning so I made an appointment.
The vet said Chester did very well (I wasn’t allowed in the room with him because he might keep looking at me and not relax). When he came out of the back room he was all waggy tail and had sparkling white teeth.
I was happy with the results. Here is the before and after so you can be the judge.
At first, I was hesitant to get Gretel’s teeth cleaned this way. Her teeth are worse than Chester’s though so she needed some kind of cleaning. She is just so anxious I was afraid she would go all Exorcist on the vet. I told him about her and he still thought he could do it. He said if she gets too stressed he will just stop and I don’t have to pay. We’re going to give it a try in a couple of weeks.
UPDATE: I did get Gretel’s teeth cleaned using the anesthesia-free technique and she did totally fine. In fact, I’ve gotten it done on both dogs multiple times and Chester has made it challenging for the dentist more often than Gretel. Mr. Blanchard at All the Best Pet Care sure has a knack for calming dogs.