You get what you pay for – the risk of non-anesthetic dental scalings

By January 31, 2020 Dental/Surgery

You might have heard about non-anesthesia dental scaling (NADS) from pet-stores, groomers or word of mouth. It involves hand-scaling a dog or cat’s teeth without putting the pet under anesthesia, and it comes with an attractively low price-tag…but at what cost?

First, we must first understand how this procedure is performed. Your pet will be physically restrained, some at stronger levels than others, to allow access to the mouth and teeth. This is so that your pet will not bite or scratch the provider or the sharp instruments. The companies that provide NADS will tell you it is just like a human going to the dentist, but this is not the case. You VOLUNTARILY go to the dentist and you UNDERSTAND why your mouth is painful as they are scraping plaque and tartar off your teeth.

When you go to the dentist, the scaling from the sharp instruments can be painful and cause your gums to bleed – even if you brush and floss diligently. Now imagine your pet undergoing this procedure when they have not had routine dental care for months or even years. The discolouration on your pet’s teeth is essentially layers of plaque and bacteria that have built up over time, which is only eliminated from the visible portion of the tooth. There is no ability to clean beneath the gumline where bacteria that causes periodontal disease occurs- pets will not tolerate this level of invasion. As well, the scaling leaves rough surfaces on the teeth, making bacteria and food MORE likely to stick back on.

Some pets may appear to tolerate restraint better than others, but they are still being traumatically restrained for a long period of time without understanding why or what is happening to them. All they know is someone is holding them down and causing pain in their mouth. While they are struggling, the risk of inhaling the mouth bacteria and tartar into their lungs is high. Your dog and cat can get aspiration pneumonia, which can be life-threatening. Further, they learn to be fearful of restraint overall, and are less inclined to allow anyone back in their mouth for any reason.

The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA), American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), and the American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC) have all issued position statements against NADS and consider it unacceptable and below the standards of care. If a veterinarian were to practice NADS, they would be sued and sanctioned for malpractice. In both California and in Ontario, anesthesia-free dentistry is now illegal.

Many NADS providers are not veterinarians or registered veterinary technologists. As such, their knowledge of oral anatomy and pathology is slim to none. Would YOU go to an untrained person to get your teeth cleaned and examined?

White teeth do not mean a clean and healthy mouth. Periodontal disease is normally BELOW the pet’s gums. That is where the bacteria that causes periodontal disease and bad breath, and leads to extensive damage to tooth root attachment and the supporting bone structure. The best dental care for your pet is regular veterinary dental cleanings under anesthesia which includes detailed oral probing and x-rays to provide early detection of problems.

The cost of a NADS seems cheaper in the short run. However, pet owners are risking the need for much higher costs for care of severe dental problems that have gone painfully unidentified for years.