Historically, veterinarians have firmly held to the belief that dental cleanings should be with full anesthesia, as only then can a thorough cleaning be performed and, if extractions/dental procedures are needed, they can be done simultaneously. Clients have been hesitant about these procedures for two very significant reasons: First, they are afraid that the anesthesia could kill their pet, and Secondly, they cannot afford the $400-$1200 for the procedure, which require labwork, intravenous fluids, and general anesthesia costs. These are the most potent objections a client can have…don’t kill my pet, don’t kill my pocketbook.
Groomers and independent agencies have been offering anesthesia-free, awake dental cleanings on pets for quite some time now. It has been clearly stated by the CVMA and the California State Legislature that dental cleanings, or any dental procedure, done by a non-licensed person not directly under the supervision of a California licensed veterinarian is committing an illegal act. Further, and of huge importance, it has been found that animals experiencing these procedures INHALE PLAQUE. Dental plaque consists of mineral matrix and bacterial colonies. This stuff is not safe to inhale, and, when the dog/cat is getting its teeth scraped in this setting, particulate matter from the plaque is inhaled. This has a high risk of inducing pulmonary disease. Add this severe health concern to the fact that these procedures cannot do a thorough cleaning below the gumline, where it is most important to clean, and there can be little justification for such procedures. Even IF an excellent licensed veterinary technician attempts the procedure, the best he or she could do would be to get the OUTSIDE of the teeth done; the inside, meaning the side on side where the tongue is, is out of reach to cleaning because animals will not tolerate having their mouth held open that wide, tongue moved to the side, and scraping under their tender gumline. As we’ve pointed out, the more success one has in performing awake dentals, the more danger there is of inhaled plaque. It is a no-win situation.