Dog Teeth Cleaning Without Anesthesia: The Great Debate

There’s a debate raging in the animal care community over dog teeth cleaning without anesthesia. In case you’ve never heard of it, it involves cleaning just the surface of the teeth of a fully awake pet. It does not involve evaluating what’s going on below the gum line or in other unseen areas of the oral cavity.

Dog Teeth Cleaning

Anesthesia-Free Dentistry Is a Cosmetic Procedure

Anesthesia-free dentistry is gaining popularity with well-intentioned pet guardians who may be fearful of anesthesia or may not be able to afford professional veterinary dental care.

They want to provide some form of oral care for their pets, but unfortunately, anesthesia-free cleanings are purely cosmetic procedures that address only the parts of your pet’s teeth you can see.

One of the questions many pet healthcare professionals are asking is whether dog teeth cleaning without anesthesia is doing more harm than good. A concern many veterinarians have with just scraping teeth is that the mouth is full of blood vessels, which can launch oral bacteria into the bloodstream. Once there, it can infect other organs like the valves of the heart.

Another concern is that anesthesia-free dental care can give pet owners a false sense of security about the state of their dog’s oral health. Even though the areas of your pet’s teeth you can see may look clean after an anesthesia-free dental procedure, what you can’t see is actually more important.

Why Most Pets Should Be Anesthetized for Dental Procedures

Dog teeth cleaning without anesthesia is confusing to some pet owners because on the one hand, they fear having their pet anesthetized. But on the other hand, they don’t understand the real limits of an essentially cosmetic dental procedure that cleans just the surface of the teeth.

Pet owners need to realize that in capable hands, the risk of anesthesia for dental procedures is far, far less than the risk of the systemic effects of untreated periodontal disease.

The fact is that a thorough oral exam and cleaning can’t be accomplished on a pet that is awake.
Anesthesia has several benefits when it comes to dental procedures, including:

1. Immobilizes your dog to insure his safety and cooperation during a procedure he doesn’t understand and is stressed about;

2. Allows for a thorough exam of all the surfaces inside the mouth and the taking of x-rays;

3. Allows for scaling below the gum line where periodontal disease is most active;

4. Allows for pain management as required.

The vast majority of fully alert dogs simply won’t tolerate a thorough inspection of their mouth. They’ll jerk away, wiggle, and squirm, making the use of sharp instruments dangerous.

Cleaning below the gum line of a fully alert animal is something that should never be attempted, because not only does the procedure cause significant stress, it’s also painful. And if tooth extractions are necessary, they are out of the question for un-anesthetized pets.

If you’re nervous about anesthesia for your dog – and most people are, especially those with older pets – you should know that it’s actually quite safe when performed according to current standards.

A well-trained, skilled and experienced veterinary staff, following the most current standards of practice, can safely anesthetize senior and geriatric pets, as well as pets with significant systemic disease.

Is There Ever a Good Reason for Dog Teeth Cleaning Without Anesthesia?

For the majority of pets, the answer is probably no, since most dogs today have some degree of dental disease. More often than not, during the anesthesia-free procedure, the technician uncovers issues that require further investigation under anesthesia.

Fearful of anesthesia? Call our office today to schedule a consultation and we’ll discuss why dog teeth cleaning without anesthesia might not be the best decision for your pet. We’re here to answer all of your questions and concerns.

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