Speaking as a pet parent, I can understand why other pet parents may find dental cleanings without anesthesia appealing. No pet parent wants to willingly have to put their furbaby under anesthesia. Speaking as a veterinarian, I can tell you that today’s technology and anesthesia protocols make anesthetic procedures very safe. The small risk of using anesthesia in no way outweighs the benefits to your dog or cat from a proper dental cleaning under anesthesia.
While it may seem like dental cleanings without anesthesia are risk free, that is most definitely not the case. The American Veterinary Dental College does not recommend anesthesia-free dental cleanings and California has made them illegal. This is for good reason. Anesthesia-free dental cleanings are superficial and do not get to the root of why your dog or cat needs a dental cleaning in the first place — periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease is painful and often does not have any visible signs until there is so much damage beneath the gum-line that the pet often has bone loss and loses teeth. Anesthesia-free dental procedures have no way of cleaning beneath the gum-line to prevent periodontal disease, nor are they able to look beneath the gum-line to identify problems before they become painful and expensive to treat.
Painful conditions can’t be identified during an anesthesia free pet dental procedure. It is impossible to do x-rays and adequately examine all surfaces of your pet’s mouth while awake. X-rays and a veterinary oral health exam are crucial in detecting problems early while they are relatively easy and much less expensive to treat.
Let’s take a look at one of our recent patients who came in for a dental cleaning. Here is a photo showing you her teeth above the gum line after the teeth were cleaned…notice how clean they are, as all plaque and tartar have been removed.
Upon close examination, one would say we are all finished and this pet is good to go home. Let’s take a closer look by taking digital dental x-rays that will show us what is happening below the gum line (what we can’t see with our naked eye). Upon taking x-rays, we discovered that a tooth was fractured, which you can see below. It is the far left tooth and the fracture is that big black hole, where the root should be. The tooth was successfully removed. Without dental x-rays we would never have known this tooth was fractured and our patient suffering in pain.
Anesthesia-free dentals may be less expensive and appear to clean your pet’s teeth, but do not be fooled into a false sense of security. Without x-rays, a thorough oral health exam, and cleaning underneath the gum line, your pet will still suffer from periodontal disease or other tooth related conditions.