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Facts About Non-Anesthetic Dentistry

Facts About Non-Anesthetic Dentistry

The idea of having your pet's teeth cleaned without anesthesia by an unlicensed or non-veterinary provider may seem appealing on the surface, but it can potentially harm your pet's health. Here are some facts to consider:

A Comprehensive Oral Exam & Cleaning is Not Possible Without Sedation

Unlike humans, dogs, cats and other pets will not remain still with their mouth open for the duration of an oral examination and cleaning. A thorough oral examination can be uncomfortable or even painful if periodontal disease is present. In an effective dental cleaning, veterinary professionals use an ultrasonic scaler to clean the teeth and under the gum line. Water is used to flush away debris that can cause infection. Anesthesia ensures your pet's comfort, safety and compliance during these procedures and protects the veterinary team from bites.

If Used Improperly, Scraping Tools Can Cause Damage to Teeth & Gums

The scraping tool often used by non-veterinary providers is a hand scaler, which can cause scarring and pitting of the tooth enamel. These instruments can lacerate the soft gum tissue if the scaler slips or the patient moves, which is likely without sedation.

Cleaning Only Visible Surfaces of the Teeth is Not Effective Against Disease

Cleaning the tooth surfaces under the gum line is the most critical part of a dental procedure; this is where periodontal disease is active. Without sedation, it is not possible to properly clean under a pet's gum line with any tool. While the visible areas of the teeth may look clean after a non-anesthetic procedure, without the flushing action of professional ultrasonic scaling, hand instruments can leave bits of plaque and calculus behind. The bacteria in plaque can lead to periodontal disease as well as heart, lung and kidney disease. According to the American Veterinary Dental College, "removal of dental tartar on the visible surfaces of the teeth has little effect on a pet's health and provides a false sense of accomplishment." The AVDC advises pet owners against a non-professional veterinary cleaning on an unanesthetized pet.

It is best for your pet to have a licensed veterinarian perform a professional veterinary dental cleaning with ultrasonic scaling, polishing and the appropriate anesthesia. Veterinarians are licensed and qualified to care for your pet's teeth. An unlicensed provider has no education requirements, is not regulated, and may not carry liability insurance.

Updated: May 11, 2023

Information reviewed by Dr. Jean Battig, DACVD, Animal Dental Clinic, Portland