Dental cleaning in pets: Why is it so expensive?

Dental cleaning

A professional dental cleaning for pets isn’t cheap, but there’s a reason!  This  week I will discuss what is included in the cost and why it may cost more to have your pet’s teeth cleaned than it does to clean your own.

Let’s face it most people don’t let their teeth get this bad before going to the dentist!   In addition, most people brush their teeth twice daily and visit their dentist every 6 months for a dental cleaning.  In comparison, pets rarely get their teeth brushed, if ever, and many only receive a professional dental cleaning every few years.  So, the obvious reason pet dentistry is more expensive is that it takes more time to perform a dental cleaning when the teeth are this bad.  In addition, there are usually extractions that need to be done which takes even longer.

Last time I went to the dentist, I was charged for an exam fee, the dental cleaning and dental x-rays which cost me around $175.00.  A dental cleaning for your pet can range anywhere from $250.00 – $500.00 depending on the amount of tartar and damage that has occurred due to the lack of care.  Here are the things involved in cleaning your pet’s cleaning

  1. Blood work:  Blood work needs to be performed to insure that your pet’s organs are functioning properly before anesthesia.  Most veterinarians have the necessary equipment in their hospital so blood work can be performed the day of the procedure.
  2. Intravenous catheter and anesthesia monitoring:  An intravenous catheter allows fluid administration during the procedure dental cleaningand allows easy access to the bloodstream  if there are any complications.  Your pet will be monitored with a variety of equipment, such as blood pressure and EKG to ensure safety during anesthesia.
  3. Ultrasonic cleaning and high speed drill:  Because of the amount of tartar buildup, veterinarian must use an ultrasonic cleaner to remove debris from your pet’s teeth.  This equipment also allows us to clean below the gum line.  Not all veterinarians have a high speed drill but this is necessary for surgical extraction of teeth and root canals.
  4. Dental x-ray:  Full mouth x-rays should be performed on every patient receiving a dental cleaning.  70% of the tooth is below the gum line and can not dental cleaningbe seen by the human eye and pets are unable to tell us what tooth is hurting.  Unfortunately, not every veterinarian has this equipment because the average cost of a high speed drill and x-ray equipment is about $20,000.00.
  5. Polishing:  Removal of dental tartar with an ultrasonic cleaner leaves small scratches and abrasions on the tooth.   Polishing smooth’s out these scratches and helps prevent additional tartar build up.

You can decrease the cost of your pet’s dental cleaning by brushing your pet’s teeth daily and providing daily dental chews and toys to prevent tartar build up.  Regular dental cleanings when recommended by your veterinarian will help prevent advanced dental disease and loss of teeth which requires more time and money. 

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Dr. Anna was born and raised in Guthrie, Oklahoma. As a teenager, Dr. Anna found her beloved pet dead on the side of the road left to die without any help. That was the moment she decided to become a vet and vowed to help other people and their pets. After a few years of practicing in New Hampshire, Dr. Anna became homesick and decided to return to Guthrie to be with her parents and five other siblings. Family and friends are a major part of our lives which is why we treat our clients at Guthrie Pet Hospital as family.  Dr. Anna and her husband do not have children but are very proud pet parents and therefore, treat every four legged friend as part of the family. 







2 thoughts on “Dental cleaning in pets: Why is it so expensive?

  1. A friend of mine has lost two greyhounds during dental cleanings. She posted this on FB recently to try to help other greyhound owners.

    My vet called to let me know that in reviewing this incident along with another last week (where it occurred more slowly and the greyhound was able to be saved), they have done research and had a consult with Tufts Veterinary School and found the following: While it is rare, greyhounds are the only breed that has been observed to have an unexplained increase in potassium level while anesthetized, especially after being under for about 1.5 – 2 hrs. In both Bailey’s case and the case last week, they discovered an extremely elevated level of potassium even though the level was normal just before the procedure.

    They gave calcium to counteract it in both cases, but were unable to reverse it
    in Bailey’s case. In the case last week, they had enough warning with heart
    rate gradually slowing that they ran a test and discovered it in time to reverse
    it; in Bailey’s case it was too sudden for the treatment to work (they only even
    tried it because of the incident the week before).

    This apparently has been observed in only greyhounds (rarely) but the mechanism of what is happening is not understood. My vet has decided that they are now going to start doing istat tests for electrolytes at one hour in and every half hour after that during a procedure whenever they have a greyhound anesthetized in order to try to catch this phenomenon early and reverse it before it causes a cardiac incident.

    • Thank you for the information. I will investigate further so that I will be familiar with this disorder. Most of the dental cleaning that we perform are under one hour unless there are extractions. It’s important to make sure cleanings are done before irreversible damage is done to the tooth and this cuts down on anesthesia time. Unfortunately, greyhounds have lots of dental problems.

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