What’s New with Anesthesia-Free Dental Cleanings

May 23, 2015 at 10:39 pm

bigstock-shiba-inu-dog-with-a-puppy-45451327By Dr. Turie Norman

Anesthesia-free dental cleanings are a controversial subject in the veterinary community.  We can all agree that keeping your dog’s teeth clean helps to prevent gum disease and helps to prevent bacteria from traveling to other areas of the body causing problems.

What the vets don’t agree upon is how to accomplish this.  The history of the disapproval comes from the American Veterinary Board Certified Dentists.  To be fair in the past 20 years anesthesia free dentals have NOT been under the supervision of a veterinarian.  Lots of dogs got their teeth “cleaned” but a lot of problems went undetected.  Most states now require that it be veterinary supervised.

In our company we have really elevated the practice.  All our technicians have 100’s of hours of veterinary supervised training.

All candidates for a dental are prescreened by a veterinarian.  We lay the animals down on a thick cushy pillow in the technician’s lap.  Small dogs and cats are wrapped to feel more secure.  We carefully monitor stress by observing struggling, panting, heart rate, and color of the mouth tissues.  A sterile rinse is first administrated to reduce bacteria aerosol.  Tarter (calculus) is removed from the tooth above and below the gum line with sterile dental instruments, just like when you go to the dentist.  We gently probe several areas around each tooth looking for pockets and measuring recession.  We chart our findings:

For the teeth we note if they are: discolored missing broken (into pulp or not) worn, have enamel anomalies, loose (what %), stained, root exposure, furcation, neck lesions (cat’s get tooth resorption).

For the gums we note if there is: bleeding (how much) color, gum depths, recession, hyperplasia, growths.

All dental instruments, including ultrasonic scalers, leave micro abrasions on the enamel surface.  To mitigate this we polish the teeth with an electric “high” speed polisher.

We discuss our findings with the owner.  If we find issues we will suggest they follow up with their veterinarian.  The supervising veterinarian is right there in case the pet needs antibiotics.

Frequency of dental depends on how quickly your dog builds up tarter. Tarter build up depends on the following:

1) Genetics (for example, the shape of the muzzle, how crowded the teeth are)

2) Diet (low carb diets seem to create less tarter build up)

3) Home care (are you brushing or wiping the teeth and gum line on a daily bases or at least 3 times per week?)

4) How much recreational chewing your pet does.

We suggest small dogs get a dental every 3 to 6 months.  Larger dogs may need it every 6 to 12 months.  In our practice if your dog doesn’t need a dental we don’t charge.

Where do I see the future of anesthesia-free dentistry?  My vision is to create a certification process for technicians so we can all receive the same standard of care and where technicians can receive continuing education.  I see a new veterinary association of anesthesia-free dentistry with a web site where studies and case studies can be posted, where techs and vets can chat about cases and procedures, where presentations will be given to educate vets at state and national meetings. I’m more than a little excited about the future of anesthesia-free teeth cleaning.  To help promote anesthesia free dentistry call your state VMA (vet med assoc.), vet board and state reps and tell them that you support this procedure!

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