For all of you dog and cat owners out there, how often do you brush your pet’s teeth? Do you brush your pet’s teeth? 

Ten years ago, as a first time pet owner, I remember being encouraged to take care of my dog Fig’s teeth.

RoundTable reporter Wendi Kromash and Fig ready for the start of the North Shore Century bike ride in September 2022. Credit: Wendi Kromash

I made sure he got a dental bone each day after dinner and I brushed his teeth nightly as a regular part of Fig’s bedtime routine. He’d see me approach with his toothbrush and peanut butter flavored doggy toothpaste and would roll on to his back and open his mouth.  

He is really cute when he does this. 

My late father was a dentist. My brother is a dentist. I grew up understanding how essential good dental care is to one’s overall health. I could see Fig’s teeth were accumulating tartar. At each annual check up, our vet suggested I schedule a dental appointment for Fig.  

I always found two reasons to avoid scheduling this appointment: the cost and the risk of him being put under anesthesia. The cost was always in the four-figure range depending on the extent of disease found, which could only be determined after radiograph X-rays were taken. And taking radiographs of a dog’s mouth requires anesthesia.  

Some pet insurance plans cover dental extractions and radiographs. Most plans don’t cover pre-existing conditions. And future dental coverage might depend on your pet getting a baseline dental exam first so any teeth needing additional care can be identified (and excluded). 

Fig’s been hospitalized twice already through Blue Pearl Emergency Pet Hospital and I paid handsomely both times. He trembles noticeably whenever we go to the vet for his check ups or regular vaccinations. As a rescue animal, he’s anxious on a good day. 

I knew that if I was going to properly care for Fig, a dachshund mix, I would need to get his teeth professionally examined and cleaned at the veterinarian’s office. February is National Pet Dental Health Month and many veterinarian practices offer month-long discounts for the care.

Fig during dental surgery. Credit: Provided by Wendi Kromash

I made sure he had nothing by mouth after 9 p.m. and dropped him off at 8:05 a.m. I signed the forms and confirmed my cellphone would be on to talk with the doctor.

Nothing could have prepared me for the phone call I received.

Fig had such extensive decay that many of his teeth were loose already, which I had not detected. The doctor strongly recommended 16-18 teeth be removed, with possibly another four to six coming out depending on how he tolerated the anesthesia. There was so much damage the surgery might have to be done in two parts.

He was not the only one in need of anesthesia: I felt physically sick after the call. 

Would he have any teeth left after this? Yes, he would. According to an online article by Alexandra Anastasio for the American Kennel Club, adult dogs have 42 teeth.

Most of the time they do fine after multiple extractions because the loose and painful teeth aren’t bothering them any longer.

Dogs are pretty good at hiding pain, apparently. 

Four hours later, minus 20 teeth, including his two upper canine teeth, my pup was safely awakened from anesthesia. He tolerated the surgery well. He was alert and sitting up in the cage.

I took him home armed with three prescriptions, one antibiotic and two for pain. 

Fig, four days after his dental surgery. Credit: Wendi Kromash

In spite of everything he went through, Fig had an appetite.

He has to eat puréed food and wet kibble for two weeks but has slept well.

He needed the oral pain medicine for only the first two days. The incessant sneezing he’d been dealing with for over a year has stopped, most likely because it related to issues with his teeth rather than allergies. His personality remains intact. 

In retrospect, my delays and reluctance were not helpful; I should have scheduled his dental exams annually. I didn’t realize how susceptible his breed is to dental disease. I have to live with knowing I caused Fig to suffer more than he might have otherwise.

If there is any good to come out of this experience, don’t do what I did. Get your dog’s and cat’s teeth cleaned regularly. Our tooth brushing will hopefully resume after Fig’s follow-up visit.

Wendi Kromash

Wendi Kromash is curious about everything and will write about anything. She tends to focus on one-on-one interviews with community leaders, recaps and reviews of cultural events, feature stories about...

Join the Conversation


The RoundTable will try to post comments within a few hours, but there may be a longer delay at times. Comments containing mean-spirited, libelous or ad hominem attacks will not be posted. Your full name and email is required. We do not post anonymous comments. Your e-mail will not be posted.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Thanks Wendi for sharing your experience with Fig and for the excellent information to help others with dogs especially Fig’s breed!

  2. The costs associated with animals having their teeth cleaned is crazy high and it is, I believe, what prevents most of us dog/cat lovers from having their teeth cleaned and checked regularly. But the procedure is so important. Glad that your Fig is doing so well and that other issues have cleared up. And thanks for sharing your experience with us.