We’re often asked if it is necessary for pets need to be put under general anesthesia for a dental cleaning. Unfortunately, unlike people, we can’t just ask our furry friends to stay still while we scrape the tartar off their teeth with metal instruments (I can’t blame them!). Especially if they have teeth that need to come out they’ll be particularly sensitive and our main goal is to prevent any unnecessary pain (if you’ve ever had a cavity, imagine having 42)!
While anesthesia may seem risky for your loved ones, there are businesses out there offering “anesthesia-free” dental cleanings. These procedures can be advertised as a “safer” and “cheaper” alternative but the way they avoid using anesthesia is by forcibly holding your pets’ head still for up to an hour. They are not going to clean any of the plaque under the gums, they won’t even be able to check under the gums for any pockets (signs of root or jaw bone damage). They might look clean to the naked eye but that bacteria is trapped and can still cause infection and root erosion. They’re also not going to be able to remove any teeth that need, nor prescribe pain medications and antibiotics. Antibiotics are such an important part of a dentistry because the amount of bacteria that is being cleaned off the surface of their teeth needs somewhere to go, it could even end up going into open sockets or swallowed at the end of the cleaning. They will especially not be able to do blood work to ensure that your pet’s organs are all working well and see how much of an inflammatory (response to infection) reaction is occurring internally. Meanwhile that bacteria is still festering under the gum line causing a worse infection (and smell!) in the mouth that can actually absorb into the blood stream. But since the teeth look clean on the outside you won’t be able to tell what’s going on, and sometimes neither will we without taking x-rays. This bacteria can travel through the blood and make its way into the heart and cause bacterial endocarditis, an infection of the heart’s valves which can be a fatal condition.
So if you want your pet’s teeth to look clean and healthy, anesthesia is the right choice. And if anesthesia is a risk you don’t want to take then daily prevention is the safest, healthiest, and most responsible way to keep your pet’s mouth clean and healthy! We would be thrilled to go over and show you brushing techniques, dental diets, and food additives that are all simple care that can be done at home. Next time you can, try and take a look inside your pet’s mouth: are there solid chunks of tartar covering the teeth? Do the gums look angry and red? Is the smell so bad you personally have to hold your breath? Then maybe you might be thinking that your pet is ready to go ahead with the procedure. If so, get in touch, we will walk you through all the steps, make up an estimate ahead of time, and we will individualize your pet’s anesthetic protocol based on their blood work, breed, and age. And, if you decide to book their procedure starting in January (or sooner if your schedule doesn’t work), we will include a 10% discount, or 20% if you are over 60 years old!