Dental Care Guidelines
This information has been provided due to the animal welfare issues associated with "anaesthesia-free dental procedures" for cats and dogs.
These are the reasons why veterinary surgeons DO NOT advise "anaesthesia-free dental procedures":
1. The mouth must always be examined and assessed by a veterinary surgeon before any treatment. A non-veterinary surgeon is not able to do this, as they have not studied veterinary medicine at university and undergone further training in dentistry.
2. The area below the gumline is very important. This area must be assessed and cleaned very carefully to avoid tooth decay in the future. Cleaning below the gumline is an act of Veterinary Surgery, and can only be performed by a Veterinary Surgeon.
3. Attempts to clean below the gumline using an ultrasonic scaler (which is a sharp instrument) in a conscious animal (because their heads do not stay perfectly still), has the potential to damage the delicate periodontal tissues, and cause future tooth pain and loss.
4. Scaling below the gumline is uncomfortable, and may be painful if a tooth is in the early stages of decay. Causing pain to your pet in this way is against the Animal Welfare Act. (This can be done in humans, as we are able to tell our dentist if it hurts, and humans can understand the concept of a painful procedure; animals cannot)
5. An ultrasonic scaler can also cause significant tooth and gum damage if not used correctly. A veterinary surgeon would never advise scaling and polishing teeth on a regular basis. Veterinary surgeons are trained in how to use a dental scaler safely, this training is only available to veterinary surgeons.
6. Simply removing the visible tartar from above the gum line, is not effective or useful in tackling dental disease. The process simply makes the teeth look better, the tooth decay will continue on the inside of the teeth, between the teeth and below the gumline.
7. Parts of the mouth simply cannot be seen without anaesthesia. Some early oral cancers can only be seen when the pet is under anaesthetic. Delaying diagnosis of these problems can mean that they become far more difficult to treat, or may even become untreatable. Many oral diseases can only be diagnosed by x-ray examination. This is only possible in an anaesthetised pet. Therefore, an 'anaesthesia-free dental' cannot allow a full mouth examination to be performed, and vitally important diagnoses may be missed or delayed.
8. Removing tartar using an ultrasonic scaler, spreads bacteria into the animals mouth. Humans can spit this bacteria-ridden liquid out when they go to the dentist. Animals cannot do this. Under anaesthesia, the back of the mouth and airway is protected from this bacteria-ridden liquid. An anaesthesia-free dental does not protect your pet from inhaling bacteria.
Further information provided by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), for members of the public regarding "anaesthesia-free dental procedures":
The RCVS considers that “anaesthesia-free dental procedures” for cats and dogs, are not in the best interests of the health and welfare of patients.
Members of the public considering providing anaesthesia-free dental services should be aware of their responsibilities under the Veterinary Surgeons Act, and also the potential dangers of causing pain and harm to pets which could lead to actions under the Animal Welfare Act.
If your alternative dental-care provider states that they do clean teeth below the gumline, then please note that "Specifically performing sub-gingival scaling (scaling the pocket between the gums and the teeth), which is necessary for proper oral hygiene, and any extraction of teeth using instruments are Acts of Veterinary Surgery. Acts of Veterinary Surgery can only legally be performed by a veterinary surgeon".
If teeth are not cleaned below the gumline, then the teeth will be at risk of decay, pain, infection and tooth loss. If a non-veterinary surgeon cleans below the gumline, then this is against the law.
Members of the public considering allowing someone to perform an anaesthesia-free dental procedure on their cat or dog, should be aware that the procedure may cause harm to their pet, and that, as owners, they also have responsibility under the Animal Welfare Act to avoid this.
If you have any questions about dental procedures and what we do in a dental examination, during a scale and polish, or indeed a tooth extraction; or if you have any questions about the information above, then please do not hesitate to get in touch and we can advise you.
Our vets are all experienced dentists and will be happy to chat to you!