The Myths of Anesthesia-Free Pet Dental Cleanings

by Veterinary Experts

I was recently told by a friend that her dog was such a good girl because she didn’t even growl when her groomer pulled 2 teeth during one of her twice-yearly "dental cleanings.” Instantly, alarm bells went off in my head! If little Lucy received “dental cleanings” every six months, how is it possible that any of her teeth were so loose and rotted they could be pulled, pain-free, by a groomer? Sadly, it’s because Lucy had never gone for a true dental cleaning in her life, even though her mom thought she had.

Anesthesia-free “dental cleanings” are false advertising. Many people seek these services often because they’re afraid to put a beloved pet under anesthesia or to save a few dollars, but these services do not allow for a proper cleaning. The only thing one can safely do with a pet awake is scrape tartar and polish the teeth – while never touching the most important area deep under the gum line where bacteria grows.

The result of these “cleanings” is that your pet’s teeth will look visibly whiter and cleaner. Her breath may even smell a little better for a while, but this benefit will be short-lived. Anesthesia-free dentals more closely resemble human teeth whitening services. Professional cleanings involve the use of special tools like ultrasonic scalers, even dental x-rays.

If you only received whitening treatments every time you saw the dentist, your teeth would slowly decay. The same is true for pets. Over time, bacteria will cause periodontal disease, tooth loss, and even organ failure! Bacteria under the gum line can only be tackled by a trained veterinarian or technician under general anesthesia.

Anesthetic procedures do cost more and can be scary for parents of older dogs and cats. The fear can subside, if your pet receives a thorough exam and bloodwork which will help your veterinarian determine the anesthesia is of minimal risk for your pet.

The moral of the story: An animal’s teeth should never be so loose or decayed that they can be extracted by a groomer with no visible signs of pain. Lucy is now heading in for an appointment with her primary veterinarian for a real cleaning for the first time in her long 11 years of life!