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Anesthetic Free Dentals vs. Clinical Dentals

We recently treated a poodle for dental disease and his case was unique because he previously received anesthetic free dentals however was showing symptoms of advanced dental disease and decay. Mini Wheets had a bacterial infection of his gums, and this meant he was at risk of losing teeth every day he went with it untreated. Unfortunately, he required multiple procedures by having endured both an anesthetic free as well as a complete dental cleaning with extractions. 

So what is the difference between anesthesia free dentals and what most veterinary clinics offer?


We recently treated a poodle for dental disease and his case was unique because he previously received anesthetic free dentals however was showing symptoms of advanced dental disease and decay. Mini wheets had a bacterial infection of his gums and this meant he was at risk of losing teeth every day he went with it untreated. Unfortunately he required multiple procedures by having endured both an anesthetic free as well as a complete dental cleaning with extractions.

So what is different between Anesthesia free dentals and what most veterinary clinics offer?

  1. Patient Selection- Anesthesia free dentals are not for every pet. They require the pet to lay on their back quite still for an extended amount of time. Clinical Dentals can be performed on even the most wary of patients. Dissociative anesthetics help ensure the pets' stress levels are kept to a minimum during their time in the clinic and during the procedure itself.
  2. Education – Veterinarians and Technicians receive a great deal of training in order to properly perform dental procedures. Each veterinary team has 100+ hours of training and experience of dental work alone. Anesthesia free dentals are not completed by a veterinarian with extensive knowledge. Always ask about how much training your healthcare professional has. Do you feel comfortable with their answer?
  3. Anesthesia – This is the biggest advertised difference, but unfortunately is just the tip of the tooth. Anesthesia does always carry some risk, talk to your veterinary team about how they manage anesthesia and the risks. The answers may shock you. Pets receive amazing care when at AMC for dental work. Your pet is offered pre-surgical bloodwork that is completed in-house in less than 30 minutes. Then while your pet is under, we have venous access, a managed airway (intubated), intravenous fluids, monitoring of heart rate, oxygenation, blood pressure, temperature and more. When taking risks, we do everything in our power to manage that risk to help us ensure a positive outcome. Manage the risk but be respectful that there still is a risk to your pet.
  4. Radiographs – Just like your dentist, we too obtain full mouth radiographs during our dental procedures. This allows us a whole picture of how the tooth is doing both above the gum line and below. Over 50% of some teeth are below the gum line. This makes it very important to monitor below what the eye can see. 
  5. Below the gum line care – When so much of the tooth lies below the gum line, it is important to not only chart any pockets in the gum line, but also to clean in the area between the visible part of the tooth and where the tooth and gum line attach. This area can be anywhere from 0mm to 5mm in a healthy tooth and the pocket may be the length of the tooth in a severely diseased tooth. This area needs the most care. Cleaning just what the eye sees can leave a great deal of problems festering. This is exactly what happened with Mini Wheets. You have teeth that look healthy on the surface but are truly causing bacteria to be released into the body and causing decay every day. 
  6. Extractions – Teeth that are exposed or compromised by infection or bone loss when examined and radiographed often need extraction. This requires a general anesthesia in a pet in order to ensure we do not hurt them as well as to allow for proper surgical technique to be performed by your veterinarian. 
  7. Pain Management – Pets that have undergone a dental cleaning that includes under the gum cleaning may experience some discomfort, pets that undergo extractions will absolutely suffer some discomfort. Your veterinarian can prescribe a one-time or ongoing prescription for pain management to ensure that pets do not wake up or suffer from discomfort while recovering from the procedure. Any time there is bleeding gums, there is the potential for pain. How is that being managed without a veterinarian on staff? Ask for the sake of your pet.

There is a lot of information out there about dentals, dental disease and the management of your pets’ oral health. If nothing else, we encourage you to ask questions about the procedure you have opted for your pet to receive and the credentialing of the health care team you have chosen. Do you have questions for us? Ask here

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