It is understandable that pet parents want to keep their pet’s teeth clean and some believe that having a dental cleaning without having them under anesthetic or a “gentle dental” is sufficient, but it really does not help keep their teeth healthy. A proper dental cleaning needs to be performed under anesthetic to clean the plaque and tartar under the gum line.
An anesthetic-free dental is never recommended as it will only clean the surface of the teeth but will not deal with the issue of the plaque and tartar below the gum line. The money spent on an anesthetic-free dental is only cosmetic as the teeth may look visually clean, but the tartar that is left behind will continue to cause damage to the teeth and gums. It can also be very stressful on a pet as unlike people we can not explain to a pet what we are doing. Many pets do not like having their mouths touched, and during an anesthetic-free dental the pet must are restrained for an extended period which can be stressful. The feeling of a dental tool scraping tartar off their teeth can be strange or even painful. These dental scaling tools can leave grooves in the teeth, and if the teeth are not polished to smooth out these grooves, they become places where tartar builds up more easily. If any teeth need to be extracted they cannot do this, and it is painful for these diseased teeth to be left behind. The remaining tartar will cause the tooth to lose attachment to the gum and eventually gum recession that will result in the exposure of the tooth root. Another concern is that as tartar builds up bacteria forms on the tartar and can be absorbed into the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, it can spread and cause infection in the various organs including the kidneys, liver and heart.
Just like people, dogs and cats need regular dental care to keep their teeth healthy. Just like you, the best way to prevent tartar build up is brushing! Using pet specific toothpaste which comes in yummy flavours such as chicken, seafood, and vanilla mint and a toothbrush you can help keep their pearly whites clean of plaque and tartar. There are other alternatives to brushing which may help slow the buildup of tartar including dental diets, treats, water additives and more. Even with daily brushing, there can be an eventual build-up of tartar, and that will require a dental cleaning.
A dental cleaning done at the veterinary hospital under anesthetic involves the teeth being scaled to remove the tartar. Each tooth is then individually evaluated to see if they are loose or have any pockets or other concerns that indicate they need to be extracted. Those teeth that need to be extracted will be then all remaining teeth are polished. The veterinarian will also be able to perform a full oral exam and be able to find any concerns with the mouth as a whole.
The American Veterinary Dental College has further information and articles on why anesthetic-free dental cleanings are not recommended; please visit their website https://afd.avdc.org/
If you have further questions about dental health or cleanings, please give us a call at 368-7981 to book an appointment with one of our veterinarians.
Written by: Sunrise Animal Hospital