Tag Archives: periodontal disease

Dentistry without anesthesia?

I had a phone call yesterday from an older gentleman who wanted to know if I cleaned dogs’ teeth without anesthetic.  (I do not)  I told him that I do sell dog toothbrushes and toothpaste and he wasn’t aware that these things existed!  And then he said that he would never be able to brush his dog’s teeth because he wouldn’t cooperate.

This made me wonder why he thought a dental procedure without sedating his dog was going to be effective.  But I try to be positive when engaging with new clientele; it seems that he was after a procedure that would cost him less money – not necessarily what was appropriate (or comfortable) for his dog.

I explained that I thought he would be better served by having a proper dental cleaning which is a veterinary procedure and then focusing on prevention.  This would include things like teeth-brushing by getting his dog accustomed to the taste of the paste, then gradually introducing the brush with praise and treats (positive reinforcement) throughout.

He thanked me for my advice.

I’ve done a little homework about this practice, because I have concerns whether an animal could truly be treated thoroughly without sedation.  I’ve just been to the dentist myself for a cleaning this week and it isn’t always a comfortable procedure!  Imagine a dog being restrained for it…

The American Veterinary Dental College refers to Anesthesia-Free Dentistry as Non-Professional Dental Scaling (NPDS) and cautions owners against the procedure for the following reasons:

1. Dental tartar is firmly adhered to the surface of the teeth. Scaling to remove tartar is accomplished using ultrasonic and sonic power scalers, plus hand instruments that must have a sharp working edge to be used effectively. Even slight head movement by the patient could result in injury to the oral tissues of the patient, and the operator may be bitten when the patient reacts.
2. Professional dental scaling includes scaling the surfaces of the teeth both above and below the gingival margin (gum line), followed by dental polishing. The most critical part of a dental scaling procedure is scaling the tooth surfaces that are within the gingival pocket (the subgingival space between the gum and the root), where periodontal disease is active. Because the patient cooperates, dental scaling of human teeth performed by a professional trained in the procedures can be completed successfully without anesthesia. However, access to the subgingival area of every tooth is impossible in an unanesthetized canine or feline patient. Removal of dental tartar on the visible surfaces of the teeth has little effect on a pet’s health, and provides a false sense of accomplishment. The effect is purely cosmetic.

3. Inhalation anesthesia using a cuffed endotracheal tube provides three important advantages… the cooperation of the patient with a procedure it does not understand, elimination of pain resulting from examination and treatment of affected dental tissues during the procedure, and protection of the airway and lungs from accidental aspiration.

4. A complete oral examination, which is an important part of a professional dental scaling procedure, is not possible in an unanesthetized patient. The surfaces of the teeth facing the tongue cannot be examined, and areas of disease and discomfort are likely to be missed.

In my blog on Managing Dental Health, I explain the things I do for Daisy to keep her teeth in good condition.  I recommend professional veterinary care to ensure your dog’s oral health, followed by a preventative regime that minimizes the need for future cleanings and anesthesia.

Periodontal disease in dogs

According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, more than 80 percent of dogs over the age of three develop periodontal disease.  I’ve previously blogged about gum disease in Dog breath is no laughing matter and Managing dental health.

Did you know that while any dog can develop gum and dental problems, periodontal disease is most commonly seen in toy dog breeds?  That’s because they have the same number of teeth as larger dogs but their mouths are smaller and so there’s less room between teeth…

Here’s a photo of one toy breed, the Chihuahua.  Willow is owned by George L. Verge.

Our Chihuahua – Willow

Dog breath is no laughing matter

We’ve all heard the jokes and comments about dog breath.  Things like “I owned a dog named Halle, he had such bad breath we called him Halle tosis”

However, dog breath is no laughing matter.  Bad breath is one of the common symptoms of gingivits and periodontal disease.  February is National Pet Dental Health Month in the USA.  Take this time to learn a bit more about your dog’s dental health.

Plaque consists of saliva, bacteria, and food particles.  Dental experts say that plaque is 80% bacteria and when it isn’t removed, it will harden into dental calculus – commonly known as tartar.  Tartar is clearly recognizable as a brown hard coating on your dog’s teeth.

The earliest form of periodontal disease is gingivitis.   A reddening or swelling along the gum line in your dog is a sign of gingivitis.  The gums may also bleed when touched.  Gingivitis is reversible if you clean your dog’s teeth.

If gingivitis gets into the cavity around a tooth, the problem literally deepens.  Gums may recede and expose the bone which can also become infected.  This is full-blown periodontal disease and it can be stopped with a proper dental cleaning but in many cases there is still lasting damage.

As periodontal disease progresses, your dog is at risk of systemic infections where bacteria and associated toxins spread throughout the bloodstream.  Researchers believe there is a connection between dental disease and liver, kidney, lungs and heart problems.

Signs of gingivitis and periodontal disease may include:

  • Bad Breath
  • Regular drooling
  • Difficulty with chewing or eating
  • Vomiting
  • Red or swollen gums which may bleed
  • Tartar on the teeth
  • Receding gums
  • Loose or missing teeth

Many dog owners swear by the ‘bone a day’ rule – that chewing something hard will clean their dog’s teeth.  However, more veterinarians recommend teeth brushing now than ever before and they will check your dog’s teeth at their annual check-up.

Dog toothpastes are available in flavours like chicken, beef, malt and vanilla and most dogs will rapidly get accustomed to having their teeth brushed.  It can be a game and the toothpaste is the reward.