“Anesthesia-Free Dentistry” Is it right for your pet?
There have been several stories in the news lately highlighting “Anesthesia Free Dentistry” for dogs and cats. At first glance, it sounds like a great option – Anesthesia free dentistryyour pet’s teeth get cleaned, no risk of anesthesia, and it will save a lot of money. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
If an animal is awake, only the outer surfaces of the teeth can be examined and scaled, resulting in teeth that appear clean and tartar free. However, what is going on under the gum line and on the inside surfaces of the teeth? Are there infected tooth roots, abscesses, cavities or fractured teeth that we are not seeing? Dental x-rays and a thorough oral examination, performed under anesthesia, are essential to ensure we are not missing any dental disease processes. In addition, a thorough oral examination is important to screen for cancer in the mouth. Cosmetic “anesthesia-free” cleanings will not only leave tartar under the gum line, but likely, miss diagnosing infected roots, cavities, or fractures, which are very detrimental to the health of your pet.
In addition to making it possible for us to more easily and thoroughly identify disease, anesthesia is also necessary for the safety of the patient. During a thorough dental cleaning, the area under the gum line needs to be cleaned with very sharp instruments. Even the most docile pet may inadvertently move or bite down suddenly when a tender area in the mouth is being examined or treated. The mouth could be badly cut, requiring surgery to repair the wound, the neck may be injured due to attempts to restrain the head, and the pet may be emotionally traumatized. Animals, just like humans, can develop a fear of the dentist.
Fear of general anesthesia is often a concern of pet owners. However, according to the American Veterinary Dental College, “the risk of chronic oral infection…, is far greater than the risk of an anesthetic complication.” Chronic oral infections can cause pain and the infection can spread to other areas of the body, leading to life threatening illnesses such as kidney failure and heart disease. Although anesthesia will never be 100% risk-free, today’s anesthesia and the monitoring capabilities used in veterinary hospitals like ours minimize the risks. General anesthesia, using an endotracheal tube, provides three important advantages:
- Eliminates pain and fear
- Prevents inadvertent movements
- Protects the airway and lungs from aspiration
Millions of dental scaling procedures are safely performed under anesthesia each year in veterinary hospitals. In fact, starting November 1st, 2013, the American Animal Hospital Association has mandated all AAHA-accredited hospitals to anesthetize and intubate all patients undergoing any dental procedures, citing that “cleaning a companion animal’s teeth without general anesthesia is considered unacceptable and below the standard of care.”
When dental procedures are done properly and regularly under anesthesia, tartar build-up and periodontal disease are kept at a minimum. The time your pet will be under anesthesia, and the degree of treatment required, are also minimized which reduces risk and cost while maximizing health.
If you have concerns regarding your pet’s oral health, please schedule an appointment today with one of our veterinarians.
Written by Dana Hatfield, D.V.M
November 1, 2013
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