Is Anaesthesia – Free Dentistry the Right choice for Your Pet?
Since being introduced in Australia – Anaesthesia Free Dentals are becoming a popular option for people who don’t want their pet going under Anaesthesia.
That being said – there doesn’t seem to be a lot of information out there comparing AFD’s with Professional Veterinary Dentistry performed under General Anaesthesia other than AFD’s sounding so much more appealing than their Veterinary equivalent.
Is there a difference?
Yes there is. These are two entirely different procedures approached in entirely different ways.
AFD’s are approached from the Cosmetic angle. Ugly brown tartar which leads to periodontal disease is scraped off pet’s teeth to clean and restore the “above the gum line” parts of the teeth surface to make them nice and white again.
- During an Anaesthesia Free Dental procedure the surface of your pet’s teeth are scaled using a hand instrument that scrapes away the accumulated tartar. This leaves grooves on the tooth surface making it easy for more food and bacteria to stick to after the procedure.
- Your pet is likely to feel uncomfortable during the procedure. Think of your pet as a young child having it’s mouth held open while a sharp instrument scrapes and pokes along the teeth. And then – what if your pet reacts to a painful sensation and moves its head? There is a risk of doing some serious damage to the mouth and gums with that sharp instrument.
- It is impossible to clean beneath the gumline where periodontal disease starts. Gently probing below the gum line looking for pockets of disease and cleaning these areas is painful. No AWAKE human or pet will tolerate this. For this reason – Anaesthesia Free Dental procedures do NOT address issues that may be hidden under the gumline.
- This means Anaesthesia Free Dentals’s are superficial only and create a false sense of security. Just because your pet’s teeth are nice and white again does not mean there’s no serious dental disease lurking below the surface.
- It is impossible to do a complete oral exam which includes looking at all surfaces of your pet’s teeth inside and out – front and back – in an awake pet.
- It is impossible to see what’s happening to the parts of teeth that sit below the gumline without Dental X-rays. For all you know – with AFD’s – damaged teeth that should be pulled are being cleaned instead.
- You can’t extract damaged, misaligned teeth without General Anaesthesia!
Summing up AFD’s
Your pet’s teeth are nice and white and that doggy breath is gone – for now!
As for any below the gumline tooth and jaw damage – that’s ignored and left until further symptoms develop and you’ll be referred back to your vet for the expensive treatment.
Are performed under full general Anaesthesia so we can properly examine ALL parts of your pet’s oral cavity including all parts of all teeth while your pet sleeps peacefully throughout.
Where we suspect any below the gumline issues – we take full dental X-Rays just like your Dentist would. Dental X-Rays give us valuable information about all the structures we can’t see. This allows us to identify bone loss – teeth that look normal on the surface but are damaged at the roots and need removing, impacted or resorbed teeth and any other bone pathology that might indicate developing disease.
Preventative Dentals (Scale & Polish)
Veterinary Dentals falls into two categories:
- Preventative Dentals – This is like visiting your Dentist on a regular basis to have your teeth professionally cleaned with modern Ultrasonic equipment. While your Dentist does this – he or she will be looking out for any developing problems and make recommendations based on what they see while examining and cleaning all your pearly whites. Regular dentals throughout your pet’s lifetime will slow down the progression of Dental Disease and keep them healthier for longer. In terms of costs – these are hardly more expensive than AFD’s.
- Treatment Dentals – where dental disease is already present. This is you visiting your dentist because you are experiencing Dental pain or discomfort. Usually this will mean a filling or some other form of dental treatment. Your Dentist will take X-rays to reveal the real cause of the problem so the right treatment can be prescribed.
Any treatment your Dentist does will likely involve some pain control. While humans don’t need a General Anaesthetic for most procedures – we do have the benefit of local anaesthesia for the uncomfortable or more painful procedures. Local anesthesia works just fine for us because as long as we don’t feel the pain – we’re happy to keep our mouth wide open and still to allow the dentist to do the work.
Animals aren’t so compliant which is why they need Full Anaesthesia.
Fear of Anaesthesia
There seems to be an unhealthy fear of Anaesthesia which is what makes AFD’s so appealing despite their clear limitations.
“But I don’t want my pet to have a General Anaesthetic” is a common reason for declining a Dental procedure.
In terms of risk – let’s put it this way. The risk of your Pet becoming very sick and being in a lot of pain due to Dental Disease is much much greater than the risk of Modern Day Anaesthesia.
This should never be the reason for withholding proper dental care from your pet.
This is why we do pre- anaesthetic screening blood tests as well as put your pet on fluids before or throughout the procedure as necessary.
Here’s a picture showing a patient sleeping peacefully through what would be considered a painful procedure.
Please note the Breathing tube inserted. This means we can administer Oxygen at any any time should there be complications.
It also prevents all that bacteria ridden tartar from being swallowed or worst still being inhaled into the lungs!
(Keep in mind – anaesthesia protocols vary between clinics. Here we’ve described what we do in our practice)
Home Visit Dental Check limitations
During a home visit (mobile vet services) we can perform basic dental checks however this cannot replace the full oral examination required for a professional diagnosis and treatment of Dental Disease. All pets that need dental treatment will be referred back to our Hospital.
Dental Disease is Serious Disease
Many people think that Dental Disease only ever affects the mouth so it’s O.K to ignore. Actually – it’s no less serious than any other medical condition you are prepared to visit your vet for. If left untreated – Dental Disease eventually affects other organs – mainly kidneys and heart as the infectious bacteria from the mouth circulate around the bloodstream.
But my Dog / Cat is still eating. It Can’t be that bad
Animal have strong survival instincts. They will continue to eat despite pain in preference to starvation. Once an animal has stopped eating – it’s a sign that death by starvation is now preferable to dealing with the pain associated with eating.
Some breeds of cats and dogs are more prone to developing dental disease. e.g Dogs with short faces like French Bulldogs, Shih-tzus, Pugs and their mixes often have overcrowded teeth making it more difficult to keep teeth and gums clean – even with preventative care.
These breeds of animals will need regular professional dentals on top of daily home dental care.