Anesthesia-Free Dentals: Myths vs. Facts

Anesthesia-Free Dentals: Myths vs. Facts
01 Feb 2017

Bad breath is more than just a nuisance – it may be a sign of a significant dental problem. Dental disease is the most common disease in dogs and cats, affecting 78% of dogs and 68% of cats over the age of three. Dental disease can also contribute to more severe medical conditions. The challenge most pet owners face is that even if their pet’s breath smells fine, some dental issues are hard to spot.

As a pet owner, you have your pet’s best interest at heart and want to make the best choice for their care. You may have heard about “Anesthesia-Free Dentistry” or “No Anesthesia Dental.” This sounds like a great option, but is it?

MYTH: A “No Anesthesia Dental” is the same procedure as a professional veterinary dental cleaning, just without sedation.

While it is true that a “No Anesthesia Dental” does not include anesthesia or sedation, the actual procedure involved is very different from a true professional veterinary dental cleaning. Only the visible part of your pet’s teeth are cleaned. A full dental examination, intra-oral radiographs (x-rays), and cleaning the tartar and plaque below the gumline (which is the cause of periodontal disease) cannot be performed without sedation. Scaling (scraping off tartar and plaque) without polishing (smoothing the surface of the tooth) can provide the ideal breeding ground for bacteria and actually worsen dental disease.

MYTH: A “No Anesthesia Dental” is less stressful for my pet.

Without anesthesia, your pet must be restrained for an extended period while the visible tartar is scraped from the teeth with a sharp instrument called a scaler. This can potentially be painful and stressful, and your pet will not understand why this is being performed.

MYTH: A “No Anesthesia Dental” is a good screening tool and can determine if another procedure under anesthesia will be necessary.

A complete oral exam with the help of a dental probe and x-ray examination cannot be performed on an awake pet. All surfaces of your pet’s mouth should be evaluated. A thorough exam with x-rays can help identify infections, broken teeth, periodontal disease, and even oral tumors.

MYTH: A “No Anesthesia Dental” is less expensive.

While the up-front cost of an anesthesia-free dental may be less, the long-term costs can be significantly more expensive.

MYTH: A “No Anesthesia Dental” is better than nothing at all.

As mentioned previously, scraping off tartar without polishing can cause crevices for bacteria to grow and worsen dental disease. According to the American Veterinary Dental College:

“Anesthesia free dental cleanings provide no benefit to your pet and do not prevent periodontal disease at any level. In fact, it gives you a false sense of security as a pet owner that because the teeth look whiter that they are healthier.”

So what can you do?

Early preventive measures, such as at-home care and in-clinic teeth cleanings, will help to reduce the frequency and severity of dental disease later in life. At Lakeview Veterinary Hospital, we follow the Oral ATP™ (Assessment, Treatment, and Prevention) protocol.

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Keeping your pet healthy from toe to tooth shows the world how much you love them. The best way to keep your pet in tiptop shape is to schedule your pet’s regular checkup with us. We’re committed to your pet’s well being every step of the way. (Because we love them, too!)

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