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The Danger of Non-Anesthetic Dental Care


A veterinarian’s challenge to dental procedures that don’t treat periodontal disease

Murphy is a beautiful 8-year-old goldendoodle whose mom came to us for a second opinion on her mouth. It was obvious from the moment we met Murphy’s parents that he was an important part of the family and had great support. Unfortunately, Murphy’s mouth was full of signs of advanced and painful periodontal disease. Murphy, like the majority of pets, had suffered in silence for years due to improper care by “non-anaesthetic dentists”. Murphy had receding gums, swollen and red gums, bad breath, loose teeth, pockets larger than 3mm and exposed tooth roots (see Figure 1). These alarming findings of advanced and painful dental disease were documented in a recent Non-Anesthetic Dental Care and Discharge report that included instructions to “consider scheduling dental anesthesia in 6 months.”

Murphy’s mother realized something was wrong and wasn’t interested in delaying further proper care for her beloved best friend. Without hesitation, she scheduled professional dental anesthesia (dental prophylaxis and dental x-rays) with our team, which resulted in appropriate assessment and treatment of advanced Kirby’s disease. Murphy’s mother, like many other pet parents, had not previously been told the importance of routine professional dental care and home dental care. Murphy required major oral surgery which would have been avoided had the client been properly educated and care provided before allowing the disease to progress.

As veterinarians, we have a very important responsibility to ensure that pets do not suffer. The AAHA does not certify practices that provide non-anesthetic dental care for good reason, as it is harmful to pets and does not meet standard of care. Prior to becoming medical director of our AAHA accredited facility, I served as an associate veterinarian for many years. I confess that in the past I have also been led to believe that planning and recommending this non-anesthetic dental care is a benefit to the pets we are sworn to serve. I now realize that, like many other general practice veterinarians, I was part of a problem that continues to plague companion animals across our country.

Non-numbing dental products are advertisements for pet parents that make false promises. As we all know, periodontal disease is the most common disease that affects all of our pets. These procedures lead to further and unnecessary deterioration of the health of our pets. As veterinarians, we must be united in our stance against non-anaesthetic dental care, as we share the responsibility to provide comprehensive care for the pets we are sworn to serve. By offering procedures such as non-anaesthetic dental care in our practices, we continue to discredit our profession and provide inadequate care that puts pets at risk.

We must unite and eliminate this “service” for pets in veterinary hospitals around the world. If you lack the ability to properly acquire and interpret dental x-rays as well as perform proper oral surgery, consider taking continuing education courses or referring these cases to a dental expert. Our common goal should be to shut down non-anaesthetic dental businesses. Unfortunately, this non-anaesthetic dental care is provided outside veterinary hospitals, which practice veterinary medicine without a license, and must be dealt with by the proper authorities. Now is the time for us to stick together and live up to the oath we have taken as veterinarians to make a difference for pets everywhere.