Sooner is better than later....
Most people would rather not have their pet undergo a dental cleaning. They worry about the cost and the anesthesia, and they try to wait until absolutely necessary (smelly breath, bleeding gums) to have their pet's teeth cleaned. But dental health is very important for your pet's overall health and comfort level. Bad teeth are associated with increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, and, worst of all, pain and discomfort.
Here is why it is bettter to get your pet's teeth cleaned sooner rather than later: First of all, it will be less expensive. Less tartar to remove, less periodontitis to treat, fewer (hopefully no) teeth to remove - the procedure won't take as long, and consequently we don't charge as much.
Secondly, it will be safer. A shorter procedure means a shorter period of anesthesia which will be safer. Also, the pet will be younger if you do the procedure now than they would be if you wait until later to do the dental. In general, a pets health deteriorates as they age (especially if they have significant dental disease), so doing the dental sooner rather than later means they are healthier, and so, again, it's safer.
It will be less painful. Even though we do everything we can to keep dentals procedures from causing pain, such as giving pain meds beforehand and using nerve blocks, a simple cleaning and polishing is always going to be less painful than periodontal treatments and tooth extractions would be.
Your pet's mouth will be healthier. Mild gingivitis is reverible. Gingival recession and periodontitis is not. So if you wait too long, your pet will still have significant gum, bone, and potentially tooth loss, even after cleaning and periodontal treatment. Do it sooner and your pets mouth will be "like new."
Lastly, if you have your pet's teeth cleaned sooner, the cleaning will last longer. If the teeth are still healthy but just have some tartar, when we clean the teeth your pet will be left with nice healthy smooth enamel. Enamel is the hardest substance in the body and is relatively resistant to the accumulation of tartar, so tartar will not develop as quickly. If you wait until the enamel has been damaged and underlying dentin is exposed, or if the gums have receded and the cementum of the roots is exposed, those two substances are much less resistant to the accumulation of tartar, and you will see it begin to develop on the teeth again within months of having them cleaned! Teeth that are compromised will need to be cleaned again much sooner than teeth that are healthy. If you begin dental cleanings at an earlier age and an earlier stage of dental disease, you will have a pet with a healthier mouth, a healthier body, and one which will not need as many dental cleanings over the course of it's lifetime compared to a pet who had to wait until later to have it's teeth cleaned.
One last note about safety: we screen our patients very carefully prior to dentals with exams and blood tests to make sure it will be safe for them to undergo anesthesia, and we will have a very candid conversation beforehand about the potential risks. In addition, we monitor them very carefully during anesthesia both with machines and by continually examining them for any signs of problems. Consequently to this date, having done hundreds of dental procedures, we have a 100% success rate. We have never lost a patient due to a dental procedure.