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Buyer beware: Nonprofessional dental cleanings

Buyer beware: Confused about what treatment is right for your dog’s teeth?

We know you want what’s best for your pet, but if you believe a nonprofessional dental cleaning is right for your pet please reconsider. We realize the temptation of a lower cost and a lack of anesthesia, however nonprofessional dental cleanings are cosmetic only and leave you with a false sense of security.

You may have seen advertisements for “anesthesia-free pet dental cleaning” and wondered why this dental cleaning is occurring outside of a veterinary clinic. This procedure, commonly performed at a groomer or pet store, involves scaling a dog or cat’s teeth without putting the pet under anesthesia.  The term ‘anesthesia free’ may sound less risky for your pet than a veterinary dental cleaning under anesthesia, but when it comes to dental health the risks of periodontal disease and oral pathology outweigh any potential benefits. Like an iceberg, the true danger lies below where we can see—the gum line.

The facts:

  • A thorough oral examination cannot be performed until the animal is under anesthesia so probing and measuring can be done below the gum line and between the teeth, and the entire oral cavity can be examined completely.
  • 80% of periodontal disease is below the gum line where you can’t see it.  This part cannot be cleaned during a nonprofessional dental cleaning.
  • Oral X-rays will likely be necessary and anesthesia is necessary for those.
  • Your dog will be given local anesthesia so less general anesthesia is necessary.
  • During a nonprofessional dental cleaning, the animal will be restrained while the tartar is removed. In some cases, this is stressful and painful.  You thought it was hard to brush his teeth before!

Dr. Fraser Hale, Board-certified veterinary dentist, has said ‘If anyone suggests that they can provide any valuable level of dental care without full general anesthesia, they are seriously ill-informed. It simply cannot be done. In many places it is illegal/malpractice to offer such "services". Regardless of jurisdiction, it is a terrible idea and should be avoided completely.”

Here are some great resources with additional information:

American Veterinary Dental College - Anesthesia Free Dentistry

Hale Veterinary Clinic

Ontario Superior Court of Justice Ruling - April 2014

Ontario Superior Court of Justice Ruling - June 2015