Anesthetic fears are the primary reason pet owners avoid scheduling dental procedures for their dog or cat. So, when clients hear about anesthesia-free dental cleanings at grooming salons, pet-related businesses, or other veterinary facilities, they are intrigued by what seems like a safe, economical pet dental-care option. Unfortunately, anesthesia-free dental cleanings pose many health and safety risks, and may be more costly in the long run. Wales Animal Clinic wants you to know the following important facts about anesthesia-free pet dentistry. 

#1: Pets are restrained during anesthesia free dentistry and may experience intense fear and anxiety

An awake dental cleaning can be traumatic for pets, because physical restraint is necessary to keep them in position, and allow access to the oral cavity. The restraint level is determined by the pet, who may feel significant fear, stress, and anxiety during the unnatural and uncomfortable process. Some pets may panic and be harmed by a sharp scaling instrument. Others may freeze, and while this may look like consent or cooperation, these pets are suffering from extreme stress.

This stress is worsened by pain, which occurs as each tooth is scraped with a sharp hand-scaler. Anesthesia allows your pet to sleep during the procedure, and wake up with no memory of what happened. Your pet can be accurately and safely positioned without restraint or excessive handling, and their entire mouth is accessible for proper evaluation and cleaning.

#2: Anesthesia free-dentals do not prevent or treat periodontal disease in pets

Periodontal (i.e., dental) disease affects 70 percent of pets by age 3, and occurs when bacteria from plaque and tartar move below the gumline. Periodontal disease leads to inflammation, infection, tooth root decay, bone loss, and eventual tooth loss. Anesthesia-free dentals remove only visible plaque and tartar on the tooth’s outer surface, creating a false impression of cleanliness and health. 

Dental cleaning (i.e., scaling) at Wales Animal Clinic is performed with a specialized ultrasonic handpiece that uses sound waves to break down and remove plaque and tartar on the tooth crown and below the gumline. An ultrasonic scaler damages the tooth’s enamel less than hand scalers, which manually scrape away dental calculus. Hand scaling also creates scratches and grooves that provide additional surface area where plaque and tartar can adhere. 

#3: Anesthesia-free dentals cannot identify problems below the pet’s gumline

Many painful and damaging conditions are not detected during anesthesia-free dentals, because evaluating the oral cavity accurately is simply not possible on an awake pet. 

Intra-oral X-rays and a thorough examination—including probing and assessment of all five sides of each tooth—are required for accurate dental diagnosis and treatment. Because 60 percent of the tooth lies below the gum’s surface, X-rays are essential for identifying early stage periodontal disease. Early detection allows interventional treatment that can eliminate the pet’s pain, and potentially save their tooth, or reverse disease signs altogether.

#4: Anesthesia-free dentals are more costly for pet owners

Anesthesia-free dentals seem more affordable, but when these services are substituted for anesthetized dental cleanings, the pet ultimately suffers from severe periodontal disease. When the pet eventually receives a proper veterinary cleaning, the disease is so advanced that they have significant bone loss, and often require numerous extractions. 

At its worst, untreated periodontal disease can ultimately cost your pet their life, because excessive oral bacteria can enter the bloodstream and lead to kidney, liver, and cardiovascular damage. 

#5: Anesthetic risks are minimal compared with risking your pet’s health with periodontal disease

Although no procedure is entirely risk-free, Wales Animal Clinic uses safe anesthetic protocols, and takes abundant precaution to ensure that your pet’s procedure is as safe as possible. In addition to the required physical examination we perform at each dental consultation, our safety measures include:

  • Preanesthetic blood work
  • Day-of preanesthetic examination
  • Intravenous catheter and fluids
  • Additional diagnostic screening (e.g., chest X-rays, urinalysis), for senior and at-risk pets
  • Advanced monitoring equipment
  • A dedicated, trained veterinary technician anesthetist from induction to recovery
  • Local nerve blocks that numb painful areas in the mouth, and allow us to reduce general anesthesia levels
  • Passive warming, to prevent hypothermia
  • Close monitoring throughout recovery until the pet is extubated and awake

Our anesthetic protocols provide your pet with a safe and peaceful dental experience, and allow our veterinarian to conduct a comprehensive oral health assessment, detect and treat periodontal disease, and improve your pet’s quality of life. 

Anesthesia-free dentals may look good on the surface, but their health benefits are as superficial as their techniques. Veterinary dental care and an anesthetized cleaning at our clinic is an investment in your pet’s lifelong health. To schedule your pet’s dental consultation, contact Wales Animal Clinic.