How Much Will It Cost To Get My Cat’s Teeth Cleaned?
And how often should you get it done? 😬
Cats are pretty good at hiding any signs that they’re sick or in pain, so you may not notice if your cat’s having a problem with his teeth.
But dental disease is actually super common in cats, which is why it’s important to take your cat for regular teeth cleanings. And if you don’t have pet insurance that covers preventative care, this dental procedure can get pretty pricey. So how much should you expect to pay to get your cat’s teeth cleaned at the vet?
The Dodo spoke to Dr. Jamie Richardson, medical chief of staff at Small Door Veterinary, to find out how much a cat dental cleaning costs and what exactly you’ll be paying for.
How much does it cost to clean a cat's teeth?
The cost of a cat teeth cleaning can vary depending on a number of factors.
“The cost for dental cleanings can vary considerably, depending on the extent of the dental disease; whether extractions are required; geographic location; and your pet’s age, weight and any underlying conditions (as this may impact the anesthesia required),” Dr. Richardson told The Dodo.
The average cost can usually range from $200 to around $1,500, and you can get an estimate from your vet to find out how much it would cost for your cat.
“You should also budget for a pre-operative exam to ensure your pet is healthy and ready to undergo anesthesia,” Dr. Richardson said.
Teeth cleanings aren’t covered by most pet insurance plans, but you can usually get a wellness plan add-on that covers routine vet visits and preventative care.
(If you're looking for pet insurance, you’ll want to check out Fetch by The Dodo because it's made by and for adoring pet parents, and because it's the most comprehensive coverage in the US and Canada, covering things that other providers don't or charge extra for. It also includes comprehensive (aka full-mouth) dental coverage — many other insurance plans will only cover care for certain teeth!)
“Dental cleanings are typically not covered by pet insurance, although some plans may include them as part of a wellness package (sometimes up to a set amount each year),” Dr. Richardson said.
You may run into additional costs if your cat has a cavity or needs a tooth pulled. But if his tooth issue is caused by an injury, treatment to fix it may be covered under an accident-only or accident and illness pet insurance plan.
“Dental issues caused by a specific injury (e.g., a broken tooth due to chewing on a stone) may be included in some plans,” Dr. Richardson said.
Why do cats need to get their teeth cleaned?
Cats need to have their teeth cleaned regularly because they get buildup on their teeth just like people do. If the plaque on their teeth isn’t removed regularly, it can lead to serious tooth and gum issues — and sometimes even other health problems.
“Over time, this can lead to oral diseases, like periodontal disease and gingivitis, and can cause pain, inflammation, infection, tooth decay and tooth or bone loss,” Dr. Richardson said. “Plaque and bacteria can even enter your pet’s bloodstream and affect other organs, like their heart, liver and kidneys.”
What happens during a cat's teeth cleaning?
Here’s what goes on during a cat’s dental cleaning:
- Your cat will be put under anesthesia.
- Your vet will remove plaque and tartar by scaling the teeth. “An ultrasonic cleaning machine is used to remove any plaque and tartar above and below the gumline,” Dr. Richardson said.
- Your vet will polish your cat’s teeth to keep them smooth. “Cleaning teeth without polishing afterwards leaves teeth with microabrasions, which actually makes plaque build up faster!” Dr. Richardson said.
- Your cat’s teeth will be inspected for any cavities or other dental problems.
- Your vet will take radiographs (aka X-rays) to check if your cat has any problems under the gumline.
- Your vet will monitor your cat after the cleaning to make sure he’s doing OK and will let you know if his teeth are sensitive or if he needs to stay away from certain foods after the appointment.
Does my cat need teeth cleaning if I brush his teeth?
Even if you never miss a day of brushing your cat’s teeth, he still needs to have them professionally cleaned.
“Brushing at home is great, and it reduces the amount of tartar, plaque and bacteria in your pet’s mouth, but it doesn’t entirely eliminate them,” Dr. Richardson said. “Your pet will still need dental cleanings periodically, just like people do, but they’ll need them less frequently if you brush at home each day.”
How often should I get my cat’s teeth cleaned?
How often you need to get your cat’s teeth cleaned can depend on a few factors, including whether you regularly brush your cat’s teeth, your cat’s age, his diet and other health conditions. Your vet can examine your cat at his checkups and let you know when he should have his teeth cleaned, but it could be anywhere from every year to every two to three years.
Is using anesthesia for teeth cleaning safe?
It’s totally safe for your cat to get anesthesia to have his teeth cleaned.
“Anesthesia is a common procedure and is very safe,” Dr. Richardson said. “Your vet will conduct checks, including blood tests, to make sure your pet is a suitable candidate for anesthesia before the procedure. If there’s ever any doubt about the safety of anesthesia for your pet, your vet will speak to you about suitable alternatives.”
It’s actually more dangerous to not use anesthesia when doing a cat dental cleaning. Most cats don’t like people touching or putting things in their mouths (unless it’s food), so they won’t be able to stay still while a vet is trying to clean their teeth.
“Without anesthesia, your pet will undoubtedly be concerned about what’s going on and will squirm,” Dr. Richardson said. “Any movement, no matter how small, while teeth cleaning instruments are in your pet’s mouth could cause serious injury, pain or fear.”
And vets can’t clean under a cat’s gums without anesthesia because it’s painful. Most dental disease in cats occurs under the gumline, so getting under the gums is important to keep their teeth and gums healthy.
How to brush your cat’s teeth
Just like you brush your teeth every day, you should brush your cat’s teeth every day, too.
“It’s important to brush your pet’s teeth at home every day to minimize plaque and tartar,” Dr. Richardson said.
Here are some tips for brushing your cat’s teeth:
- Brush slowly, and use gentle strokes.
- “Don’t force your pet’s mouth open — this can make them frustrated,” Dr. Richardson said. “Just gently lift their lip to reveal the teeth.”
- “Focus on the outsides of your pet’s teeth, not the inside, as this is where the majority of tartar tends to accumulate,” Dr. Richardson said.
- Stop brushing if your cat seems anxious.
If your cat won’t let you brush with a toothbrush, you can try using a piece of gauze with toothpaste.
“Some pets never learn to tolerate toothbrushing,” Dr. Richardson said. “Wiping a piece of gauze over these pets’ teeth two to three times a week can still remove some plaque and bacteria and improve oral health.”
So remember to brush your cat’s teeth and schedule his regular teeth cleanings so his smile can be even brighter.
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