What happens when my pet comes for dental treatment?

You’ve decided you will have the dental scale and polish performed – so what really happens when a cat or dog has this procedure? Is it the same as us at the dentist? Will I need to do anything special after they come home? These are all common questions we encounter when booking pet’s in for dental work. We aim to answer a few of these below. 

All animals entering the clinic for a general anaesthesia are examined by a Veterinarian. The general anaesthetic will not proceed if problems are identified without calling and discussing any problems with you first.  At this point we will also assess your pet’s teeth and identify if we expect there to be any extractions.  If the tooth is completely covered in tartar, we are unable to see the tooth.  In these situations, we don’t know if your animal will need an extraction until the tartar is removed by scale and polish. 


Pre anaesthetic blood testing allows us to check important organs such as the liver and kidneys.  This is included in the estimate for all animals over 8yrs of age. It is an optional extra for animals under 8yrs of age that you may request.

Professional Dental Assessment

We use same equipment as your dentist to scale and polish your pet’s teeth. We also have a dedicated dental x-ray machine. 

dog tartar

First the tartar is removed by scale and polish so we can see the whole tooth and gums   easily to assess them.  We assess depth of gum recession, absence of teeth, broken teeth, cavities and look for periodontal disease.  Teeth that are broken, discoloured, have gum recession or cavities are examined further using a dental x-ray.  If there are signs of tooth root infection or periodontal disease we will remove the tooth. If the tooth is chipped and the pulp cavity (nerve centre) is open you may have the option to have a root canal performed.  Animals needing root canal’s are referred to a veterinary dentist in Auckland. 

Tooth extraction is the most common treatment method used if the tooth is dead, broken or has a painful cavity.  We often place a local anaesthetic block to help your pet feel more comfortable during recovery.  Leaving unhealthy teeth will only cause pain and repeat procedures in the future. Animals do not need all of their teeth – we can provide them with soft food if necessary. We see animals with no teeth still managing to hunt and happily eating biscuits! 

When the gum recession is mild but x-rays show the roots are healthy, we may just scale and polish the tooth.

Scale cat teeth
polish cat teeth

A nurse is in attendance throughout your pet’s procedure closely monitoring anaesthetic depth to ensure that the anaesthetic is safe and smooth. The pet’s breathing rate, heart rate, temperature, anaesthetic depth and blood oxygen level are all recorded. We also have blood pressure and ECG monitoring if required.

Postoperative Care

During recovery your pet is monitored by a nurse to ensure a safe recovery.  If your pet has had any extractions, they will be provided with additional pain relief.  We aim to ensure that no animal suffers in pain.  If extractions are necessary we give intravenous antibiotics during the anaesthetic. Further antibiotics may be supplied to treat current infection in the periodontal pocket/bone if present.

When your pet is discharged you will be given a set of instructions informing you of what you need to do at home to help your pet recover from surgery.

Homecare and Prevention


If your pet had extractions – do not touch their mouth or feed hard food for 2 weeks. After 2 weeks, when the mouth has healed frequent brushing is a good idea. Other strategies which can be used are dental diets which prevent tartar build-up; oral formulations to decrease future plaque adhesion such as “aquident’; or if you pet likes a treat, there are chews and toys eg.”Greenies”.

We recommend that pets have a dental hygiene check and any required treatment every 6 months. This can avoid the need for extraction allowing for a high standard of dental care at a lower cost.

Download our Dental homecare brochure.