When you stumble across an ad for an anesthesia-free dental cleaning for pets, you jump at the chance to have your furry pal’s teeth cleaned without anesthesia. As your pet ages, you worry more about putting them under anesthesia, especially for a procedure like a dental cleaning. In fact, you’re not sure why anesthesia is necessary for this service—after all, your pet would only be getting their teeth cleaned, not undergoing surgery.

Many pet owners have the same mindset about putting their four-legged friend under anesthesia for a dental cleaning. However, it’s rare to find a pet who will sit still and say, “Ahhh,” when we want to perform a comprehensive oral health assessment and cleaning. People become nervous and uncomfortable at their dentist appointments, and we have the benefit of understanding each step of the procedure, and why it’s necessary. Some people become so anxious during their dental cleanings that they opt for anesthesia-assisted dentistry, to alleviate their stress and discomfort. The same holds true for pets, with the added benefit of a more comprehensive oral evaluation and treatment that anesthesia allows. 

Differences between anesthesia-free and professional veterinary dentistry

In addition to the obvious difference between anesthesia-free and professional veterinary dental cleanings—no anesthesia—there are several other key distinctions between the two. During a professional veterinary dental cleaning, our highly trained Mill Creek Animal Hospital team performs all the following tasks, to provide thorough oral health care for your pet, and keep them safe:

  • Run pre-anesthetic blood work, to evaluate organ function and overall health
  • Perform a comprehensive physical exam
  • Create an individualized anesthetic protocol, to ensure your pet remains comfortable, and stress- and pain-free
  • Take full-mouth dental X-rays to check for hidden problems below the gumline, or periodontal issues that are difficult to visualize
  • Check for gingival pockets, abscesses, dentition abnormalities, enamel lesions, fractured teeth, or other oral health issues, and create a treatment plan based on the findings
  • Remove plaque and tartar, above and below the gumline
  • Polish away tiny imperfections in the enamel
  • Administer a fluoride treatment to strengthen enamel
  • Monitor your pet’s vital signs continuously

In contrast, someone who is not a trained veterinary professional likely performs the anesthesia-free dental cleaning, which mostly consists of removing visible plaque and tartar from the crown of the teeth. They take no X-rays, and do not probe for problems, polish the teeth smooth, or apply fluoride treatment or oral sealant. Plus, if a pet has a painful, diseased or damaged tooth, they cannot safely and comfortably remove the source of your furry pal’s discomfort without anesthesia. Essentially, an anesthesia-free dental cleaning is a cosmetic procedure that fails to completely remove potential infection sources, or restore oral health. 

How anesthesia-free dentistry can harm your pet

Anesthesia-free dental cleanings may sound like the safer alternative for your pet’s dental care, but they can actually be harmful to oral health. Your pet not only misses out on their comprehensive oral exam, including dental X-rays and gingival probing, but also their teeth are not cleaned below the gumline, where up to 60% of the tooth structure resides. Also, your pet’s teeth are left with microabrasions from the scaling tools, and the rough surface attracts future plaque and tartar accumulation. 

In addition to the harm to your pet’s teeth and gums, there’s also the potential for mental and emotional discomfort. Many pets do not appreciate strangers manipulating their mouths, much less poking and prodding their gums with sharp objects. Pets who do not easily cooperate are physically restrained—rather than chemical restraint through general anesthesia—making them more upset and uncomfortable. Avoiding fear and distress in pets is a main reason we recommend using anesthesia for dental procedures—not to mention that anesthesia enables us to perform a much more thorough evaluation, cleaning, and treatment for your beloved companion.

How we keep your pet safe during veterinary dental procedures

Many pet owners believe any anesthetic procedure is risky—and we acknowledge there is always some risk. But, our team is dedicated to minimizing potential complications, and devoted to your best friend’s safety and health. During every anesthetic procedure, we take many steps to ensure your pet remains safe.

  • Blood testing — We run a full blood work panel on your pet, checking for anemia, infection, organ function, and other hidden issues not detectable on a physical exam.
  • Monitoring — During the entire procedure, our trained team members keep a close eye on your pet’s vital signs, using specialty monitoring equipment.
  • Evaluating — After we’ve completed the dental procedure, we keep your cherished companion warm and comfortable, evaluating them for signs of pain or discomfort until they are ready to return home to you.

When your pet is under our care, we treat them like the beloved family member they are.

Worried about putting your pet under anesthesia for a dental cleaning? Discuss your concerns with our Mill Creek Animal Hospital team, or schedule an oral health evaluation with our veterinarians.