Though putting your dog under anesthesia does come with some risk, getting a professional dental cleaning requires the use of sedation to thoroughly clean your dog's teeth. Some clinics and groomers offer anesthesia-free dental cleanings for your dog, which involve simple scaling of the outside of the teeth without sedation. These cleanings will not remove the plaque and debris below the gum line, which is necessary to treat and prevent dental disease.
Anesthesia-free dental cleanings involve the use of dental tools, such as a dental scaler, to scrape away plaque and tartar from the visible surfaces of your dog's teeth. These procedures cost less than traditional dental cleanings because they do not involve the use of anesthesia, but they have little medical value. Dental disease, including gingivitis and periodontitis, results from a buildup of tartar under the gum line, leading to bacterial infections and root exposure. Eventually, dental disease can result in difficulty eating, loss of the teeth and the spread of infective bacteria throughout the bloodstream. If the area below the gum line is not cleaned, the teeth may appear clean on the outside, but periodontal disease may still exist.
A traditional dental cleaning is performed under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian. Your dog is placed under anesthesia to allow the vet or registered veterinary technician to take X-rays of the dog's mouth and carefully inspect the teeth and gums for signs of disease or abscesses. During the cleaning, both the front and back of the teeth are scraped to remove tartar. Electronic scaling and polishing instruments clean under the gum line and between the teeth. The teeth are then buffed to a smooth surface, which helps prevent tartar buildup. Without the use of gas or injectable anesthesia to calm the dog, only the front surfaces of the teeth are scraped of tartar and polishing is not possible. The rough surfaces left behind after scaling the teeth can then lead to further tartar buildup in time.
Anesthesia-free pet dental cleanings are not always performed by veterinarians or under the supervision of one, which is illegal in the United States, according to the VetInfo website. Untrained providers may miss signs of dental problems in your dog's mouth. Without the use of anesthesia to calm the dog, the practitioner can take no X-rays to check for dental disease and the dog becomes stressed in dealing with the cleaning procedure. Because no anesthesia is used, the dog must be restrained, sometimes resulting in issues ranging from neck injuries to a broken jaw, or even to accidental strangulation, according to Shadowridge Veterinary Hospital. During the cleaning, dental debris may also enter your dog's airways, leading to aspiration pneumonia, a potentially life-threatening condition.
If your dog suffers from a debilitating condition, such as heart disease, that makes anesthesia more dangerous for him, speak with your veterinarian about your options, including other types of anesthesia that may be safer to use during dental cleaning. Clean your dog's teeth by brushing them with a dog toothbrush and dog toothpaste every day. This will delay the need for professional dental cleanings. Consult with a veterinarian or veterinary dental specialist to see if your dog requires a dental cleaning. Allow only a licensed veterinarian to perform or supervise the procedure.
- Aggie Animal Dental Service: Frequently Asked Questions
- VetInfo: Anesthesia Free Teeth Cleaning for Dogs
- Shadowridge Veterinary Hospital: Anesthesia Free Teeth Cleaning Info
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Q&A With Dr. Murray: Dental Disease in Pets
- Pets Unlimited: Anesthesia-Free Dental Cleaning
- Diablo View Veterinary Hospital: Dog/Cat Teeth Cleaning Clinic & Anesthesia-Free Dental Cleaning
- PetMD: Anesthesia-Free Dental Cleanings
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