Animal Dental Clinic has happy patients in San Carlos, Redwood City, Atherton, San Mateo, Belmont, Foster City, Burlingame, Menlo Park, Woodside, Hillsborough and Palo Alto CA


Frequently Asked Animal Dental Questions



What does my pet's bad breath come from?Ben the office assistant

Halitosis can come from several different sources. The most common source is overgrowth of bacteria in the mouth. Some of these bacteria produce sulfur compounds as waste products which impart an unpleasant smell to the breath. Normal breath in dogs and cats should not smell bad, but may smell of the food they just ate. Another source is kidney or stomach disease, which should be ruled out by your regular veterinarian. If they just ate something odiferous their breath may smell bad temporarily, but should clear in an hour or so.

How many of teeth does my cat have?


How many teeth does my dog have?


My dog has dirty teeth. I have tried cleaning them myself with canine toothpaste and brush, but it doesn’t seem to help much. I do not want my pet to undergo general anesthesia. Is there anything else I can do? His gums bleed sometimes.

Teeth must be cleaned to remove calculus and plaque. Bleeding gums is a sign of gingivitis and developing periodontal disease. While daily brushing is necessary and recommended, it cannot keep all the teeth entirely clean indefinitely. Animals, just like humans, must have periodic professional cleanings. To do this thoroughly and completely, anesthesia is necessary. Then, the client can brush the patient’s teeth daily to maintain good oral health and prolong the time between such professional cleanings.

Can I scale my pet’s teeth at home?

There is no way for the client to scale the pet’s teeth effectively at home. While the cosmetic effect may be pleasing, underlying disease is being missed and tooth loss can still result. To be performed thoroughly, and all disease identified and treated, it must be done when the pet is under anesthesia. After the initial scaling and oral health evaluation by the veterinarian, the client can help maintain the pet’s oral health by daily tooth brushing.

How often should I brush my pet’s teeth?

For best results, teeth should be brushed daily.

How often should I have my pet's teeth cleaned?

This depends on the individual animal. Some dogs and cats, particularly the smaller breeds, or those with “squished” faces, need cleanings at least annually. Larger breeds may be able to go a little longer between cleanings. But the way to be sure is to have your veterinarian assess your pet’s oral health at each examination so you can arrange to have them cleaned before periodontal disease sets in. Our pets are like humans in that regard. They are all different and there are no general rules for all.

Why do you use anesthesia to clean my pet's teeth?

I have heard about people who do it while the animal is awake? Non-anesthetic cleaning is only a cosmetic action. It may clean the surface you see, but 2/3 of an animal’s tooth is below the gum line where you can’t see it and so is 2/3 of the disease which can cause tooth loss and pain. Therefore an appropriate professional cleaning visit involves anesthesia to allow a thorough examination and diagnosis, dental x-rays to assess bone and tooth root health, scaling, polishing, and a fluoride treatment, by a trained, experienced, qualified veterinarian.

What types of monitors are used for anesthesia?

Our patients are monitored with a pulse oximeter, which measures the amount of oxygen in the blood; a blood-pressure monitor, an electrocardio-gram, and an a CO2 monitor, which measures the amount of exhaled carbon dioxide, body temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate, and reflexes. That way the staff is always aware of the patient’s condition during anesthesia.

What is the risk of anesthesia?

Generally, anesthesia poses less risk than most people think. In the past 2 decades anesthetic agents have become safer and anesthesia done properly, with preparation and care, is very safe.

“Is my pet too old for anesthesia?”

For older animals the actual risk needs to be evaluated by the doctor because each patient is different. Blood profiles, chest x-rays, and other tests may be performed before the procedure to fully evaluate the risk. But most of them can undergo anesthesia without problems.

My pet’s tooth is purple. What’s wrong?

A purple tooth is usually caused by trauma. Most of the time, these teeth are dying and require root canal therapy. These teeth should be examined and treated. Dental radiographs may also be necessary.

My cat picks up his food and drops it. Sometimes his mouth opens and closes rapidly when this happens. Why?

Dropping food may be a sign of tooth pain caused by a condition similar to tooth decay. This cat should be examined; dental radiographs may also be necessary.

Why does my pet drool?

Excessive drooling may be secondary to dental disease. Your pet may be experiencing pain or the salivary glands may be reacting to inflammation from excessive bacteria. Examination is necessary.

Why must my pet’s teeth be pulled?

Teeth are usually extracted because of severe periodontal disease, fractures, resorptive lesions, misalignment, and other problems that cause discomfort or difficulty in chewing.

My pet’s tooth is fractured. What should I do?

Only two choices for treatment are practical. The veterinarian may extract the tooth or perform root canal therapy. Leaving it alone is not an option because it will result in infection of the pulp (probably already present), which can cause pain and other medical problems. Even if the pet is eating and acting normal, the fracture should be evaluated and treated.

Where do I go to find your prices?

In recent years the value of dental care in the overall health of companion animals has been recognized and more people seek it for their pets. However, as the knowledge base grows it has become apparent, that in order to meet your expectations for professional dental care for your pet, “simple, straightforward” cleanings do not always meet the criteria of a minimum standard of veterinary care. Therefore it is impossible to give you an accurate estimate on costs without evaluating the actual oral care needs of your pet. We will always provide you with an estimated range of cost for a planned procedure at the time of the initial oral examination and consultation. We make every effort to be thorough and accurate in our treatment plans and estimates, and to stay within them. We will call you if alterations to the plan are indicated and will recommend the best option for your animal companion. We respect your wishes and recognize the importance of an informed client.

My pet’s teeth are loose; what should I do?

Loose teeth are caused by fractures, periodontal disease, cancer, and many other problems. An examination and dental radiographs are recommended.

My pet has both baby and adult teeth in place. What should I do?

This is a common problem, particularly in small breeds. The baby teeth must be surgically removed to allow sufficient room for the adult teeth. If this is not done as soon as it is discovered it may cause permanent orthodontic problems. Please have them evaluated right away.

My dog has a swelling below his eye that seems to come and go. What is wrong?

The patient probably has a broken upper premolar tooth that requires treatment. Broken premolars are usually caused by chewing on cow hooves, bones, or other hard objects. A broken tooth can expose the live pulp tissue in the center of the tooth which becomes infected and the infection then spreads to other tissues in the bones and face causing the swelling.

My 10-year-old dog is slowly losing her front bottom teeth. They seem to be sensitive, and it looks as though she has ground her teeth down to nubs. Will they fall out? What can I do for her?

Teeth can wear down because of friction against other teeth. Wear is also caused by chewing foreign objects and even skin and hair. Teeth in this condition can be painful for your pet. The best thing to do is to schedule an exam. Treatment ranges from extraction to root canal therapy.

Why must my pet’s teeth be pulled?

Teeth are usually extracted because of periodontal disease, fractures, tooth resorption, misalignment, and other problems that cause discomfort or difficulty in chewing.

What kind of food is best for my animal's teeth?

There is a dizzying array of pet foods available today. Many claim to be good for the pet's oral health. BUT, only those which have the Veterinary Oral Health Council seal of approval, (VOHC seal), have proven through research that they do what they claim. Some control plaque formation, and some mechanically clean the teeth. The most important thing to remember is to feed the amount based on the weight your pet should be, and not to exceed that to avoid obesity.

Should my pet eat hard or soft food?

The answer to this varies with the individual pet. Cats, for instance, will not adjust to changes very readily. And the truth is that dogs and cats do not "chew" their food. They break it or tear it into smaller pieces and swallow the pieces. The general consensus is that soft food is more likely to promote plaque formation and hasten periodontal disease, but there is no research to support that view. The best choice is to consult with your regular veterinarian, or see the answer.

How do I choose appropriate chew toys?

We have 4 guidelines at the Animal Dental Clinic to determine the “chew worthiness” of a toy. The first is, can you indent it with your fingernail? Secondly, can you bend it at least slightly? Third, if you banged yourself hard on the kneecap with it and could not walk for 5 minutes then it is too hard for your pet’s mouth. And finally, if you would not chew on it yourself because it is so hard, then it is too hard for your pet to chew on, also.

What kinds of treats are healthy for pet's teeth?

There are as many treats available for pets as there are brands of food, and probably more. Some even claim to be good for your pet’s oral health. We recommend only those with the VOHC seal of approval (Veterinary Oral Health Council). These treats have research backing their claims that has been evaluated by a council of Board Certified Veterinary Dentists, and proven to do what they say. To check the approved list go to on the following link.

Can I give my dog ice cubes for toys/treats?

Ice cubes are very hard. We see many pets with broken teeth from ice cubes. Crushed ice can cool your pet just as well, and see question #4 for better toys.

Can you do a treatment and consultation on the same day?

We prefer to do our consultations in the afternoon and our treatments or procedures in the morning. That way all pets in for procedures can wake up and go home the same day. It is also very important for us to be able to plan our procedures so that all our patients can be treated in a timely manner and our staff can perform efficiently and thoroughly. Examination is done in advance of treatment so we can assess the actual time needed to complete the planned work, and provide you with a closer estimate of time and cost. Because we are trained in depth, experienced, and dedicated totally to oral health we often recognize conditions not noticed by your regular veterinarian, and can assess more accurately the treatments needed and the possible outcome.


Do you have a chart for my dog's teeth?


Yes. Please download a copy with our compliments.


Do you have a chart for my cat's teeth?


Yes.  Please dowload a copy with our compliments.


Copyright 2009 by Animal Dental Clinic, Site Design by