Pet Dentistry: Know the Facts

Many clients come to us and ask why we choose to perform anesthesia-assisted dental procedures. Generally they have heard about this great new thing, “Gentle Dental,” at their groomer or pet supply store. The saleswoman may have told them about the “dog whisperer” who performs the procedure, while your pet is swaddled in their arms; “Painless!” they promise each client without even looking at your pet’s mouth. If this all too common salesperson sounds familiar, this article may be for you!

What is Gentle Dental?

In a nutshell, the procedure is solely cosmetic. The cleaning involves your pet, wrapped in a blanket (swaddled), while the individual performing the cleaning takes a sharp, scraping instrument and literally scrapes away plaque and tartar from your pet’s teeth. Unfortunately, the tartar and plaque does not simply rest on the teeth’s surface; just like for humans, plaque and tartar are firmly coating the teeth. As your pet is not anesthetized during this procedure, the cleaner is not able to clean below the gum line where much of the plaque is present and causing damage. They are only able to clean the outside of the teeth and not the sides facing your pet’s tongue. In addition, if your pet moves during the cleaning, they are at a great risk of injury from the sharp instruments.

You might have heard “well, you’ve been to the dentist and were not put under anesthesia to clean your teeth, so why should your pet?” There are two main differences between humans and pets when it comes to dental procedures. The first is that human dentists and hygienists go through lengthy trainings and can verbally communicate with the patient. In Gentle Dentals, the training is often minimal and your pet has no way to tell the person they are being hurt or are in pain. The second difference is that humans are electing to have the procedure performed. Our cooperation ensures that we know what is going on, what will be happening, and we will generally not flinch or move away from the person cleaning our teeth. Unfortunately, for pet’s they are generally not electing to have the procedure performed and will often flinch or wiggle, putting them at great risk for oral injuries.

The scariest part of anesthesia-free dental cleanings are how few people realize that many of the individuals who perform dental procedures are unlicensed and may have little to no training in pet dental health and cleaning. The “gentle dental” cleaner is illegally performing these procedures, and may or may not be concerned for your pet’s safety and comfort.

At Pacific Animal Hospital, we take a safer and more caring approach to your pet’s dental care.

Amber doing an initial teeth check with Bean.

With core values based in compassion and respect for you and your pet, our procedure involves anesthesia, is legal and sanctioned by veterinary licensing boards, and ensures

your pet’s safety throughout the procedure and while waking up from the anesthesia.Your pet’s dental procedure begins at your wellness exam. The doctor will look at your pet’s teeth and assess if a cleaning is needed. If not, they will recommend you brush their teeth and give dental chew treats if appropriate. If a cleaning is needed, they will set up an appointment for your pet to come back. If your pet has any health issues or history that would make it unsafe to put them under anesthesia, the doctor will not perform the procedure and instead talk with you about a plan for your pet’s dental care.The day of the dental procedure begins early in the morning when you drop your pet off. They are received by the technicians and given a full exam, ensuring that nothing has arisen since your last appointment that would your put your pet in danger under anesthesia. They are then given a comfortable place to rest and lots of love while the dental suite is prepared.

Once ready, a doctor will administer anesthesia to your pet, and a technician will begin monitoring your pet’s vitals (and continue to monitor throughout the procedure). Once your pet is anesthetized, a technician will take photos and x-rays of your pet’s teeth, to check the health of the exposed teeth and the roots below the gum line. The doctor will assess the photos and x-rays and then begin cleaning your pet’s teeth. All the while your pet’s breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen and carbon dioxide levels are carefully monitored.

Amber checking to make sure all of Bean’s teeth are free from tartar and plaque build up. Even those hard to reach teeth at the back of the mouth!

After your pet’s teeth are fully cleaned, and if nothing else of concern is found, the technician will take a second set of photos (finishing the before and after set). Your pet is then moved back to their comfortable recovery area where a trained technician sits with your pet, and continues to monitor their vitals until awake. This ensures that your pet does not wake up in a state of fear (if only we were cuddled when we wake up from anesthesia!) and are fully recovered. Your pet then stays with us for the remainder of the day, being closely monitored by staff until you come to pick them up in the late afternoon. Your pet’s doctor will meet with you and go over your pet’s procedure and dental health, prior to discharge.

Anesthesia free dental procedures are dangerous and not effective in treating or preventing dental disease in your pet. As such, we highly recommend that you talk with your veterinarian about your pet’s specific oral health needs and create a plan of action together. Your pet’s at-home oral health can be easy and fun for both you and your pet, and when it’s time for a doctor to step in, speak with one of our trained doctors about safe dental procedures. If you have any questions about your pet’s oral health care, give us a call 760-757-2442 or check out the dental health information section of our website. We would love to talk with you about how you can take a leading role in keeping your pet’s teeth clean and healthy!