At McKenzie Veterinary Services we are often asked why, when there are local businesses which can legally offer dental scaling in pets without anesthesia for a few hundred dollars, should I have my pets’ teeth cleaned at the vet clinic under general anesthesia? The real question is why veterinarians do not offer no-anesthesia dental cleanings?
We believe that it is fundamentally more stressful and painful to attempt to “clean” teeth using an ultrasonic or hand scaler on a struggling, awake pet then when they are under anesthesia. The dental cleaning on a struggling dog is simply not going to be thorough, not only because of the struggling of the pet but also because of the difficulty in reaching and cleaning tartar from under the gum line (the most important area to clean) or on the inside surfaces of the teeth. Without x-rays, one cannot address disease conditions happening below the gum line.
Our experience has been that anesthesia is extremely safe and most pets recovery very quickly. Under anesthesia, the pet does not experience any pain, nor are they stressed during the procedure. General anesthesia combined with local anesthesia (nerve blocks) enables us to perform a complete evaluation of not only the gums and crown, but also an assessment of each tooth by probing the gingival for pockets or cavities and, most importantly, evaluating below the gum line with digital x-rays, to determine what is happening to the tooth roots.
So you can see that there is so much more to a proper prophylactic dental than just taking off obvious tartar on the outside surface of the teeth. A proper dental cleaning ends with the ultrasonic scaling and polishing of all surfaces. Our dental cleanings start with a veterinarian performing a tooth by tooth inspection and evaluation for gingival pockets, mobile teeth, oral tumours and a full mouth x-rays series to enable an evaluation of the roots of each tooth. It is very common to see what appears to be a fairly healthy tooth crown but then to find x-ray evidence cavities in the root or an abscess around the root tip. Those teeth may need to be surgically extracted and only a veterinarian is legally able to perform dental extractions. If diseased teeth are found during an annual dental scaling, then measures can be taken at that time to correct the problem so that your pet does not have to suffer or undergo an additional anesthetic. This really helps your pet and saves you money also!