Vets warn against lay practitioners and anaesthesia-free dentistry

anaesthesia-free dentistry

The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) has warned pet owners of the health risks posed by lay dental practitioners offering ‘anaesthesia-free dentistry’. 

An increasing number of non-veterinary companies are offering cleaning and scaling on conscious pets, but the AVA has said the practice does not provide adequate dental care and can be harmful to the animals.

Anaesthesia-free dentistry involves the fully conscious pet being physically restrained so dental instruments, and sometimes power scalers, can be used to remove calculus from the teeth.

Dr Tara Cashman, president of the Australian Veterinary Dental Society said that the term ‘anaesthesia-free dentistry’ is misleading for pet owners as the procedure is purely cosmetic and fails to identify serious problems such as dental disease. Dental disease is common in Australian pets. If untreated, it can be painful and lead to chronic health concerns.

“Cleaning the visible surface above the gum line makes the teeth look superficially clean but will not detect dental disease present below the gum line, and thus provides no medical benefit,” Dr Cashman said.

“It is impossible to do X-rays and adequately examine all surfaces of your pet’s oral cavity while awake,” she added.

“Radiographs and a veterinary oral health evaluation are vital in detecting problems early while they are relatively easy and thus less expensive to treat.”

Anaesthesia-free dentistry also fails to identify another serious dental condition in pets. Occurring below gum level, periodontal disease is an infection that destroys the periodontal ligament anchoring the tooth to the socket. More infection means deeper probing pockets and bone loss. Removing calculus from the crown of the tooth does not address the site of disease formation and is merely window dressing.

“Most lay operators have no animal handling qualifications and are certainly not licensed to diagnose, medicate or radiograph any pet,” Dr Cashman said. 

“They may have the best intentions, along with the pet owner to care for the pet’s oral health but anaesthesia-free dentistry is not best practice for the animal.”

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