Home Dental Care Can Save You Thousands At The Vet

by Cate Burnette RVT

We’ve all heard that old adage “Prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That could NOT be truer than when it comes to keeping your dog’s teeth and gums free of disease through annual veterinary cleanings. Often, that “pound” becomes a large amount of British Sterling “pounds,” Dollars, Euros, Pesos, or whatever monetary unit your home country designates.

In 2011, Neena Pelligrini, a reporter for the Seattle Times newspaper, received an estimate from her vet’s office for a prophylactic cleaning of her dog’s teeth for an article she was writing on veterinary costs.

According to the article, “It appears to be a standard itemized estimate that ranges from $500 to $900. The cleaning itself is $99. Add $33 for X-rays, $11 for polishing and $21 for sealing. There are separate charges for pre-anesthesia, induction, monitoring and the general anesthesia itself. This adds $120 to the estimate. What’s left? Drugs before, during and after the procedure, hospitalization fees, etc. The bill could jump by hundreds, even thousands, if you add extractions, fillings or even root canals. Is all of this really necessary?”

Her article went on to say that most veterinarians charge individual costs for a pre-anesthetic physical exam and bloodwork, dental x-rays, an oral exam, anesthesia, a complete dental cleaning, any type of oral surgery – including extractions, and all medications. The more detailed procedures, including those with extended periods under anesthesia and those with numerous tooth extractions, were more expensive.

If the dog has advanced periodontal diseases, deep scaling and even surgery might be required. Early stage disease may require only a thorough cleaning, but late-stage surgery or extractions can cost $1,000or more.

Costs also depend on where you live. Veterinary cleanings are typically more expensive in large, urban cities than in smaller cities or rural areas.

Most veterinarians will tell you the best way to cut costs is to brush your pet’s teeth daily at home so that plaque and tartar don’t build up and periodontal disease is kept at bay.

Veterinary clinics, pet supply stores, and online shops sell doggy sized toothbrushes that cost very little money. Many vets and retailers often combine doggy toothpaste and a toothbrush into a combo pack that allows you additional savings.

If brushing regularly is not an option, other substitutes for dental hygiene are available. Alternative cleaning solutions include dental wipes that can keep the teeth clean and the breath fresh, and a probiotic anti-plaque spray that reduces the bacteria causing plaque, bad breath, gum disease, and infections.

Oral care water additives make it easy to freshen your dog’s breath and loosen plaque build-up while she drinks from her water bowl, and are a relatively new innovation to at-home dental care. All-natural fresh breath foams also make it easy to keep your pet’s teeth clean at home. Just a squirt after mealtime daily inhibits the growth of microbes that cause periodontal disease.

According to pet insurance companies, these at-home products typically cost between $30 and $60 per year, but they can save you thousands of dollars on veterinary dental bills.

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