Dental Health

September 8th, 2014

A new method of pet dental care called Nonprofessional Dental Scaling (NPDS) is becoming popular among pet owners. It is also known as anesthesia-free dentistry.

Many pet owners are either fearful of anesthesia or cannot afford it, but want to provide some form of oral care for their pets, so they decide on NPDS. The concern is that it is an essentially cosmetic procedure that addresses only the visible parts of your pet's teeth. The problem with just scraping teeth is that it can launch oral bacteria into the bloodstream through the mouths’ many blood vessels. This excess bacterium can infect organs like the valves of the heart, resulting in a disease known as vegetative valvular endocarditis.

The bottom line is that a truly thorough oral exam and cleaning cannot adequately be accomplished on a pet that is awake. Immobilization is crucial to ensure an animal’s safety and cooperation during a procedure he does not comprehend. It also allows for a more complete exam of all the surfaces inside the mouth and enables the doctor to take X-rays if necessary. Further, if the pet is put under anesthesia, it is much less painful and makes scaling below the gum line possible, which is where periodontal disease is most active. If tooth extractions are necessary, they are out of the question for an un-anesthetized pet.

Non-professional dental scaling can potentially give pet owners a false sense of security about the state of their pet’s oral health. Even though the teeth may look clean and fresh after a NPDS procedure, problems like tartar buildup below the gum line, and gingivitis are not tackled. NPDS also fails to look for the presence of deepening periodontal pockets or bone damage resulting from gum disease.

There are certainly situations in which removing plaque and tartar from a pet's teeth without using anesthesia is called for, but it should not be seen as an alternative to a proper dental exam. And it should only be done if it can be performed easily and without causing anxiety for the patient.

Some people have concerns about putting a pet under, but nearly all veterinary clinics are well-equipped to safely monitor patients and handle any problems they encounter. Administration of pre-medications and nerve blocks enable doctors to use a light general anesthesia. This keeps patients close to waking, even when extractions or other invasive procedures are needed, which keeps the heart active and maintains blood pressure.

Regular brushing, a balanced diet, and all-natural dental chew bones are key in preventing problems before they occur. This type of proactive care can prevent unnecessary surgeries, stress and suffering by removing health obstacles even before disease occurs.