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Pet parent brushing dog's teeth

Complete pet dental health is important

Q: My dog Rusty goes to the groomer every six weeks for a bath, trim, and pedicure. His groomer recently added tooth scraping to her services, which I’m sure I could do myself to save money. Can you give me some tips?

A: Scraping the teeth, called dental scaling, removes the visible tartar, or calculus. However, it does not remove plaque, the invisible bacterial film that causes painful gingivitis and periodontal disease which, left untreated, progresses to tooth loss. Plaque can be removed only by polishing or twice-daily brushing.

Scaling pets’ teeth without polishing them is harmful for another reason: It roughens the enamel, making it easier for plaque and calculus to stick to the tooth. Polishing smooths the enamel, minimizing this problem.

Many states’ laws stipulate that only licensed veterinary professionals may perform pet dental services, including scaling and polishing.

So my advice is to leave the dental work to your veterinarian, who also can radiograph Rusty’s mouth to identify tooth root abscesses and other hidden causes of mouth pain.

February is National Pet Dental Health Month, a good time to have your veterinarian provide Rusty’s dental care.

Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in Pennsylvania. Contact her at

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