Anaesthesia-free dentistry on the rise

Picture: John Morton

Vets are warning pet owners of the dangers of lay dental practitioners offering anaesthesia-free dentistry.

The AVA has noted an increasing number of non-veterinary companies offering cleaning and scaling on conscious pets, but the organisation says the practice fails to provide adequate dental care and can cause harm.

Anaesthesia-free dentistry involves fully conscious pets being physically restrained so that dental instruments such as power scalers can be used to remove calculus from the teeth.
Tara Cashman, President of the Australian Veterinary Dental Society (AVDS) said that the term “anaesthesia-free dentistry” is misleading, as the procedures involved are cosmetic and fail to identify and address dental disease and other problems.

Dental disease is common in Australian pets, and if untreated, it can be painful and lead to chronic health concerns.

“Cleaning the visible surface above the gum line makes the teeth look superficially clean but will not detect dental disease present below the gum line, and thus provides no medical benefit,” Cashman said.

“They may have the best intentions, along with the pet owner to care for the pet’s oral health but anaesthesia-free dentistry is not best practice for the animal.”

Cashman said that it is impossible to conduct a thorough oral examination – which includes checking teeth subgingivally and examining the oropharynx – on a conscious animal.
“It is impossible to do x-rays and adequately examine all surfaces of your pet’s oral cavity while awake,” she said.
“Radiographs and a veterinary oral health evaluation are vital in detecting problems early while they are relatively easy and thus less expensive to treat.”

Cashman added that the practice of restraining an animal and forcing it into an extended uncomfortable procedure is also a cause of significant concern.
“The animal must be physically restrained, which can lead to significant anxiety,” she said.
“As the animal is conscious, it will be fully aware of any pain involved in the procedure and this can lead to longer-term anxiety and aversion to being touched around the face and muzzle.”

The Australian Veterinary Dental Society (AVDS) is the special interest group of the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA).
Information on AVDS’s anaesthesia-free dentistry policy is available online.

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