A veterinary dental cleaning is similar to the experience you have when you visit the dentist. Your pet’s teeth will be thoroughly examined, X-rayed, cleaned, and polished. One of the biggest differences, however, is the need for anesthesia during your pet’s dental procedure. Although you may have heard of anesthesia-free dental cleanings, there is no way a complete cleaning can be performed without anesthesia. Endorsed by the American Veterinary Dental College, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and the American Animal Hospital Association, there are many reasons anesthesia is necessary for your pet’s dental cleaning.
Dental cleanings can be scary
Your dentist has the advantage of being able to explain the procedure he will perform before he begins. You can share your fears and concerns with him so he knows how to calm your anxiety. Now put yourself in your pet’s shoes (or paws)—she is placed on a table with bright lights in her eyes, her mouth propped open, and sharp tools coming toward her face. Anyone—human or animal—would be scared in this situation. Your pet’s natural reaction—to struggle, try to escape, or even bite—will make it impossible to get her teeth clean. Anesthesia allows your pet to relax and have her teeth cleaned without unnecessary stress and anxiety.
Dental radiographs require your pet to be absolutely still
Full-mouth dental radiographs—or X-rays—are taken before most dental procedures. A visual examination of the mouth will only allow your veterinarian to see the part of the tooth that lies above the gums. It is not uncommon for this portion of the tooth to appear healthy while dental disease lurking below the gums causes deterioration of the root. Dental radiographs allow your veterinarian to see the entire tooth, including the root and surrounding bone.
While radiographs of other parts of the body can be taken while your pet is awake, she must remain absolutely still with her mouth held open for dental X-rays. Her head must be positioned at specific angles in order to capture just the right views. The only way to obtain radiographs that will allow us to diagnose dental disease is to anesthetize each pet so they remain still.
Cleaning below the gums can be uncomfortable
Tartar that builds up on the upper portion of the tooth is ugly, but it’s the bacteria and plaque below the gum line that really wreak havoc on your pet’s dental health. Subgingival plaque and inflammation attack the periodontal ligament that tightly anchors the tooth into its bony socket. As dental disease progresses, teeth become infected, painful, and loose.
Although removal of tartar from the upper part of the tooth may make it look clean, it is the removal of plaque and tartar below the gum line that makes the most impact on your pet’s dental health. To remove subgingival plaque, dental instruments must be inserted between the gingiva and tooth surface. Manipulation of the gingiva in this way can be uncomfortable, or even painful, if dental disease is present. Even the most well-behaved pet will not allow a veterinarian to perform effective subgingival cleaning without anesthesia.
Your pet may need teeth pulled
It’s not until a complete oral exam and dental X-rays are performed that the full extent of dental disease will be known. Early stages of periodontal damage can be reversed with cleaning and fastidious dental care. If evidence of advanced periodontal disease is seen, however, affected teeth will need to be pulled. With your pet already under anesthesia, painful teeth can be pulled immediately instead of delaying extraction—and pain relief—for a future appointment.
We make anesthesia as safe as possible
We understand that anesthesia seems scary, but we take every precaution to make your pet’s experience as safe as possible, including:
- Pre-anesthetic blood work — Blood tests are run to assess overall health and organ function. Most importantly, the liver and kidneys are checked to make sure they are able to eliminate the anesthetic medications used.
- The safest medications — Only the safest medications are used to minimize anesthetic complications. We customize an anesthetic protocol for every patient that will be safe for their health status.
- Advanced, top-of-the-line monitoring equipment — The latest technology allows us to monitor your pet’s heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, and other vital signs while she is under anesthesia.
- Fully-trained staff — Our educated team will be by your beloved companion’s side throughout the procedure to ensure her safety. They are prepared to recognize anesthetic complications and are trained to act quickly should a complication arise.
When was the last time your pet had a professional veterinary oral exam and cleaning? Contact us if you have questions about your pet’s dental health or anesthesia.