Cleaning Tartar from Dog's Teeth
*spoiler* This is going to be kind of gross...
Ok, I have this lovely 5-year-old beagle. You can see her picture to your immediate left.
She has some pretty bad tartar on her teeth and I need to get it off. This is not about PREVENTING tartar--it's already there. It's about getting rid of what's already there.
And I'm thinking it can't be all that bad. I went in there with my just-filed thumbnail this morning and flicked off several large chunks from one of her molars--it was really easy to get off--except for the fact that she had a freak fit as I attempted this procedure.
I have a reduced-price vet in my city that only does surgeries and I can take her over there and get the teeth scaled for only $155. However, I just don't want to put her under anesthesia if it's not necessary.
I have sporadically been using Petzine (cheaper version of Plaque Attack) but there's no difference and I haven't used it consistently enough to really make a fair judgement. When I research both PZ and PA, there is NOTHING on the Internet that indicates how scientifically these products would work anyway--so of course I'm thinking, snake oil.
I have heard that Dentabones (I think that's the name--[they're advertised by the guy who used to be the brooding one on X-Files]) work, but I haven't tried them. I would think that almost anything that's particularly abrasive would work as it took almost no effort to chip that massive chunk off with my fingernails.
Does anyone have any frugal (and safe) suggestions? I can't imagine I can't get this tartar off her teeth. It's not cemented on. But there's nothing on the internet really that is a good suggestion.
I've tried numerous OTC, treatments, chewies, etc. and homemade methods of tartar removal/teeth cleaning over the past 18 years and the only thing that really works on my dogs teeth is vet cleaning ($72 anesthesia + $42 for cleaning).
I'm a vet tech. Nothing gets off the tartar except for a proper cleaning under anesthesia. $155 is a bargain where I'm from. I have done the fingernail thing, but generally only with really old cats who would never be getting an anesthetic anyway.
Once the cleaning is done, daily brushing will prevent a lot of future tartar - even if you can only do the main tartar accumulation areas - the largest side teeth, on the gum side, for most dogs. Sometimes the canine teeth, smaller side teeth and small back molars get tartar as well. You don't have to brush the entire mouth, in my opinion, to get a pretty decent result.
Lately even though we brush our dogs teeth every night, her breath has been smelling bad. Looked at her teeth since my husband does the job and it looks like a big chunk of tarter on her back tooth. We had to have surgery for her about 3 years ago, she was older but we found a vet who at one time was an emergency pet specialist and had dealt a lot with older dogs. He said he was using a high quality of anesthesia and she was fine. She might have to have it done again if it won't come off...
Good luck with your dog. Some dogs it just seems even though you brush daily they still get tarter anyway. Maybe you can find a vet who is experienced in doing surgery on older dogs. You cannot leave it on their teeth since it can lead to gum disease....
Tussie: Penny is only 5. I just want her to stay away from anesthesia. And further, I don't want to spend the $155 if I don't have to. I know that EVENTUALLY I will have to get it done. Just had Cate's (the cat) teeth done last Christmas for the first time. She's currently 8.
Kestra: I'll be perfectly honest, I went in there with my thumbail and pretty much cleaned off her entire right front upper molar in like three swipes. Her worst teeth are on the top back two teeth on each side. I'm thinking if I just keep sticking my hand in her mouth she will get used to it. If I chunk off the tartar on these 4 teeth and they are the worst (the bottom teeth are sparkling) you're saying that's going to make a big difference? And suggestions for getting the most out of every trip in there? I learned this little trick when I was @ the vet with a totally different cat nearly 20 years ago. I occasionally snap some tartar off but I'm not consistent enough to get it clean. This time with Penny it nearly got ALL the tartar (up to the gumline) off that one tooth I worked on.
I'm thinking the dentabones with help with the rest?
Also, Kestra, does the tartar also form on the insides of the teeth or is it normally on the outside surface?
If dogs are like humans, then tartar also forms under the gums where you can't see it. In fact, I think that's the location that leads to most of the gum disease.
Having been raised on a farm, it never occurred to us to have anything done to our animals teeth. They lived their long natural outdoor lives with dirty teeth.
Of course as a pet owner, you can do whatever you want (what I've done for my own isn't always the same as what I'd recommend to a client and what vets recommend) but as Tammy pointed out, there is usually tartar below the gum line and little bits that you can't really thumbnail off. It's really hard to see all sides of the teeth and clean all parts without a general anesthetic. Those upper last molars are really tricky to get at and tend to get tartar on more sides of them, and can get loose/infected/painful. If you've made it to 5 years old, with only tartar on those teeth you describe, you're doing pretty good. You could probably get away with a professional cleaning every 2-3 years. And the anesthetic is really quite safe. If Penny was 12 years plus, then I'd start to be more reluctant about anesthetic, and just do the chipping away. Of course, neither course of action - fingernail chipping or cleaning with anesthetic - is without risks.
I've never heard any vet recommend dentabones for dental prevention or tartar removal, though I'm sure a few do. Generally it's a thorough cleaning, followed by brushing.
Yes, luckily, it seems the tongue keeps the insides of most dog's teeth fairly clean. It's only the ones with really "bad mouths" - the little dogs, generally, that get a lot of tartar on the inside surface of the teeth.
In your position, depending on finances, I'd get the teeth cleaned for the $155 now at that vet (unless I'd heard any bad stories from reputable people about the services done there since it sounds too cheap to me) and then plan to get it done again every 2-3 years until she was 11-12 years old. Then I'd just take my chances with the tartar causing gum disease. What you really don't want, is the teeth to get loose/infected and painful and need several extractions when she's an older dog, meaning the anesthetic risk is higher and the time under anesthetic would be longer, and the cost would be a lot higher as there would be extraction(s) done.
But, as with any profession, when you have worked in the industry you get a different perspective on it all. And my experiences in Canada will be a lot different from your location. And your dog's vet can give the best advice particular to your situation and Penny's health.
Thanks Kestra and Tammy.
I do know about the tartar below the gumline. I'm only speaking of what happened this morning. Big 'ole chunk with the indention ridge where the tooth met the gumline firmly intact.
I'm just going to work on this for awhile and see how it goes. I will likely get her done in the summer when I have some time off. But I might not want to wait that long if this doesn't help it.
The money issue is not an issue. It's all about the anesthesia. And remember it's in US dollars. But yes, that is REALLY cheap. The reason is this particular vet, Dr. Pasternak established her practice specifically to enable those people who can't afford (or wouldn't be willing) expensive veterinary surgery to get it done for their pets. She does not see patients. She operates on patients. That's her entire practice. She does a brief exam before the surgery and blood work, if necessary, but she doesn't do any surgery without a prescription for it written by the pet's regular vet. All she does all day is surgery--and tooth cleanings. She is phenomenal and her prices are too! For everything.
Oh yeah, her $155. price even includes extractions, if necessary! I don't want that to happen to Penny so I will very likely get the teeth cleaned soon, anyway.
What a kind vet Bunnys....
To keep your dog's teeth clean afterwards, there is a paste called PetZLife that works really well. Also, a supplement called Plaque Off! that changes the dog's saliva so that plaque and tartar won't form.
Does your dog chew raw bones or eat a raw diet? That will do a great job keeping teeth clean.