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Veterinarian cleaning a dog's teeth

The essentials

  • Dog teeth cleaning costs range from about $300 to $700 — It depends on your location plus the age, size, and health of your dog.
  • Vets sometimes combine cleanings with other procedures — X-rays, teeth extractions, and other services will increase the cost.
  • Professional cleanings may be avoided — Or lessened by cleaning your dog’s teeth at home.

If you want to enhance your dog’s health and longevity, consider taking them in for professional dental cleanings. Cleanings performed by a vet can prevent gingivitis, periodontal disease, and even heart disease and kidney disease in your pooch.

What’s included in a dog's professional dental cleaning?

Similar to human dentistry, a dog’s dental cleaning is thorough and designed to prevent problems in the future. Unlike human dentistry, most of the cleaning is done under anesthesia. Here are the six steps typically performed during a dog’s dental cleaning.

1. Conscious oral evaluation. Your vet looks at your dog’s teeth and gums while your dog is awake.

2. Anesthetized intraoral radiography. X-rays are taken to evaluate the health of the jaw and the roots below the gumline.

3. Teeth scaling. With the help of an ultrasonic scaler, the vet cleans the teeth by removing the plaque on the crowns of the teeth and below the gumline.

4. Crown polishing. Polishing is recommended after cleaning to help reduce micro-abrasions on your pup’s enamel.

5. Periodontal probing. The vet will probe around each tooth to look for abnormalities, such as gingival pockets, fractured teeth, foreign material stuck between the teeth, signs of infection, and tooth movement.

6. Anesthesia recovery. Anesthesia is required for a full examination and cleaning. Only a limited oral exam and tartar removal above the gumline are possible without anesthesia. When your dog is put under, the veterinary team will monitor them throughout the procedure to ensure their vital signs stay stable and that they’re comfortable.

In some cases, it may be necessary to perform additional procedures during the cleaning. Here are some extra procedures your dog might need:

  • Extractions. If a tooth needs to be removed, your vet performs the extraction while your dog is already under anesthesia for a dental cleaning. A nerve block is often administered before the extraction to numb the pup’s mouth so that there is no pain at the extraction site.
  • Antibiotic therapy. If your dog has an underlying risk factor such as a heart murmur, the vet may prescribe antibiotics several days before surgery. In healthy dogs, this usually isn’t needed.
  • Antiplaque sealant application. To decrease plaque accumulation, your vet may apply a barrier sealant.
  • Oral mass biopsies. A vet will send any abnormal mass found in the mouth to a pathologist to analyze the mass to determine if it is cancerous.

How to save money on dog teeth cleaning costs

The cheapest route for dental care at the vet is the minimal checkup and cleaning without anesthesia, which runs between $100 and $300. However, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) considers this an unwise, unsafe, and ineffective choice. Only when a dog is asleep can a vet effectively remove tartar buildup below the gum line. Also, anesthesia ensures your dog is comfortable and not anxious during the dental procedure.

Most cleanings with anesthesia start at $500, and the price increases if you add other services. Dental X-rays, for instance, typically run from $150 to $200. Prices for dental care even in the same city can vary, so check around before booking.

Keep in mind that dental cleaning costs aren’t arbitrary. Medications, materials, and overhead at each practice determine the price. Talk to your vet’s office about a payment plan if the cost is more than you can afford.  Organizations such as the Animal Humane Society (AHS) offer veterinary care, including dental cleanings, on a sliding scale.

In general, preventative care is a cost-saver. Paying $500 for an annual cleaning is less expensive than treating a dog’s advanced periodontal disease.  Also taking care of your dog’s teeth when cleaning is needed will decrease the risk of infection and oral pain, and make it less likely your dog will need extractions in the future.

Is it necessary to get your dog’s teeth professionally cleaned? 

While not mandatory, having your dog’s teeth professionally cleaned is a smart choice. It can help catch and treat dental disease in the early stages, which is better for your dog and your bank account. Most vets recommend a dental cleaning once a year based on the amount of tartar buildup, but possibly more frequently if your doggie has or is susceptible to dental disease.

Factors to consider include:

  • Breed. Greyhounds and small dog breeds, such as Yorkies, pugs, and poodles, have an increased risk for tartar formation, gum recession, and eventual loss of teeth. So, they require more frequent cleanings. Dental cleanings for larger dogs typically cost more because they take more time.
  • Age. Older dogs typically require professional dental care more frequently than their younger counterparts.
  • Health conditions. Conditions such as advanced periodontal disease not only cause your dog pain and the need for multiple extractions, but they raise the cost of dental cleanings.

Does pet insurance cover the cost of teeth cleaning?

The majority of pet insurance policies only cover dental accidents and disease, not routine cleanings. Some offer wellness add-ons to your policy that will cover dental cleanings. Far less common are pet insurance policies that cover preventative dental care. Find out what is (and isn’t) included by reading our pet insurance coverage guide.

How to keep your dog’s teeth clean at home

You can keep your vet bills down and your pooch’s quality of life up by taking care of your dog’s teeth at home. Aim for brushing their teeth once a day, three to four times per week. You can also add dental chews, a dental powder called Perio Support, and dental water additives to the routine. Once you get in the habit, these small tasks will pay dividends over time. Here’s a closer look at what to stock to make cleanings at home easier:

  • Toothbrushes and toothpaste. You can find dog toothbrushes and toothpaste at your local pet supply store. A human toothbrush is OK to use in a pinch. However, don’t ever brush your dog’s teeth with human toothpaste because the fluoride in the toothpaste we use is toxic to dogs.
  • Dental chews. Rawhide and edible chews help promote good dental health in dogs and help eliminate boredom. The Veterinary Oral Health Council has a list of approved dental products , including chews.
  • Dental water additives. These additives go right into your dog’s water bowl and work like mouthwash to clean their breath and reduce tartar buildup.

Frequently asked questions

Are dental cleanings safe for dogs?

Yes, dental cleanings are safe — with anesthesia.  According to the 2019 AAHA Dental Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats, anesthesia-free dentistry is neither safe nor effective. Although owners’ fear of anesthesia is the most common reason pets don’t receive medically necessary dental care, most animals do well under anesthesia and have few complications.

Do regular veterinarian check-ups include teeth cleaning?

Regular visits don’t include teeth cleaning. However, your vet will examine your dog’s teeth during a routine exam and let you know if a dental cleaning is warranted.

Why is dog teeth cleaning so expensive?

A teeth cleaning often includes a preliminary exam, pain medications, a sedative, anesthesia, and monitoring devices to make sure your dog’s blood pressure, heart rate and rhythm, oxygen saturation, and temperature remain normal throughout the procedure. Vet techs use special instruments to clean under the gums to remove tartar and plaque, which is a time-consuming process. Dental X-rays and extractions may also be necessary, and those add to the overall cost.

Can I remove plaque from my dog’s teeth at home?

Daily brushing of your dog’s teeth with special doggie toothpaste, plus giving them chews and adding dental water additives or a dental powder, can reduce plaque. It’s still important to take your dog in for professional cleaning when recommended by your veterinarian.