Anesthesia Free Dentistry – It’s just scratching the surface!
Dental and periodontal disease are common, painful conditions that affect the vast majority of adult cats and dogs. Signs that are easily seen on physical exam include bad breath, inflamed, bleeding gums, and broken teeth. However, we cannot fully evaluate the extent of oral pathology on an awake animal, even in the most cooperative of patients, because most dental disease lies under the gum line. Over half of the tooth structure lies below the surface, including the roots, the periodontal ligament that attaches the tooth in the socket, and the surrounding bone that is essential for keeping the tooth in place.
I don’t need anesthesia so why does my pet?
When you go to your dentist, they routinely take oral radiographs (xrays) and use a probe to chart the pocket depth around the entire tooth. This helps reveal pathology that lies beneath the surface. Unfortunately, we cannot obtain accurate and diagnostic quality dental xrays nor probe pocket depth on dogs and cats safely without anesthesia. Without this vital information, we will miss a large amount of clinically significant oral disease that leads to chronic pain, tooth and bone loss.
Anesthesia free dentistry
Anesthesia free dentistry requires restraint and the use of sharp instruments in the mouth of a cat or dog that does not understand what is happening. The removal of plaque and tartar involves sharp scalers that should go under the gum line to remove the calculus on all surfaces of the tooth and especially between teeth. Scaling the top surface of the tooth without going under the gum only makes the teeth look whiter. This does not remove the bacteria and tartar beneath the surface, which is the most important area to clean to prevent the periodontitis that leads to tooth and bone loss. Even for those patients that are cooperative enough to have the visible portion of the tooth scaled and polished, we are missing the vital information about the hidden disease under the gum line, while making ourselves feel better because the top of the tooth looks cleaner.
What if my dog or cat cannot tolerate anesthesia?
If your veterinarian deems anesthesia too risky, they can help develop an alternative management plan. However, while anesthesia is certainly not risk-free, it is low risk for the vast majority of patients, even our senior patients. After obtaining a history, physical exam and pre-anesthetic lab work, your veterinarian customizes a plan for each patient using a balanced anesthesia protocol, intravenous fluid therapy support, and sophisticated monitoring.
Please schedule an appointment for us to evaluate and discuss the best plan for maintaining the dental health of your cat or dog.
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