Why “Anesthesia-Free” Dentistry is a Thing of the Past

Nothing makes veterinary staff cringe more than hearing a pet owner talk about “anesthesia-free’ dental cleanings. Not only are they potentially dangerous and stressful for your pet, they are also essentially useless. The first piece of knowledge that clients need to know is that A WHITE TOOTH DOES NOT MEAN A HEALTHY TOOTH.

Patient Safety – There are many a reason why our COHAT patients are anesthetized. For starters, we are using sharp tools in their mouths. Nobody is thrilled about going to the dentist, usually because there is always some level of discomfort associated with dental work. Now imagine how well you take care of your mouth. You brush your teeth at least twice a day (hopefully), you floss, you use mouthwash. Your dog or cat cannot do any of these. The amount of plaque and tartar in your pet’s mouth compared to yours is infinitely different. There is absolutely no way to get those teeth cleaned up without causing some sort of discomfort. Also to properly treat the teeth, we need to curette beneath the gumline (remove subgingival plaque and bacteria) which although not extremely painful is irritating. We simply cannot expect our pets to sit still and say AHH.

Staff Safety – We love seeing our patients come running through the door wagging their tails or purring and head-butting us as they come out of their carriers. What we absolutely do not want is to have to hold your pet down and pry their mouth open to scrape their teeth. They do not understand what we are doing and even the most well-behaved of pets would be thoroughly freaked out, and rightfully so. We do not ever want to incite fear in our patients.

Improper “cleaning” – Cracking tartar off of your pet’s teeth is not doing them much help at all. The major offender is beneath the gum line. Bacteria living beneath the gumline is very detrimental to your pets overall health. Beyond the oral discomfort of unhealthy teeth, that bacteria can also have negative effects on the liver, kidney and heart.

Missed pathology – We at Aurora Animal Clinic complete full mouth dental x-rays on all of our COHAT patients. This is what is recommended by both AAHA and AVDC (The American Veterinary Dental College). Some clinics believe in only x-raying teeth that look obviously in trouble. If this approach is taken, you are bound to miss fractured roots, bone loss and abscesses. The other common finding is that a tooth that has always be assumed to be missing has had the crown fractured off or never erupted. All of these problems require intervention.

Written by Caitlin Johnston, RVT