Removing the Fear of Anesthesia for Pet Dental Cleanings


by Dr. Ana Maria Cepeda, Associate Veterinarian
Braden River Animal Hospital and North River Animal Hospital

When discussing dental cleaning and polishing procedures with pet owners, inquiring whether the use of anesthesia is necessary is one of the most commonly asked questions by pet owners. At both North River Animal Hospital and Braden River Animal Hospital, every dental cleaning and polishing procedure is administered while the pet is under anesthesia. Because there are so many “Anesthesia-Free” procedures advertised for pet dental services, we wanted to discuss the reasons why we use anesthesia with our dental patients.

Top 3 reasons why we recommend anesthetic dental cleanings:

1.Anesthesia allows us to deep-clean below the gum line to remove harmful bacteria. Anesthesia-free dental cleanings that you may see advertised are purely cosmetic and just remove the plaque from the surface of the tooth, not under the gum line where the true problem lies. Bacteria that accumulates under the gum line can cause significant disease: abscess around the roots, gingival (gum) recession, bone loss, and even systemic infections that can affect the heart.

2.We are able to capture full-mouth dental radiographs (x-rays) to evaluate the root system of your pet’s teeth using anesthesia. Commonly known in human dentistry as “panoramic x-ray”, both of our animal hospitals use state-of-the-art dental imaging to capture comprehensive dental x-rays of your pet’s mouth. Having access to fully examine your pet’s mouth and review these digital images enables our doctors the ability to fully explore the condition of your pet’s overall oral health. Going a step further, we are also able to evaluate the presence of unseen dental caries (cavities), tooth fractures, abscesses and more by using digital radiograph imaging.

3. When performing extractions, anesthesia is necessary and provides comfort to our patients. In order to provide optimal comfort for your pet and to safely treat dental issues, temporarily placing our patients under anesthesia enables us to render comprehensive dental care to our patients including the removal of teeth. Our thorough dental care in regards to technique and the advanced digital equipment we use is very similar to human dentistry. The removal of a pet’s tooth is always a last resort option, yet if deemed necessary by our doctors, anesthesia-assisted procedures help us treat and prevent continued pain that our pet patients may feel as a result of cavities, fractures and/or ongoing dental disease.

Are you questioning whether one of your pets may be experiencing a dental issue? Prior to any anesthetic procedure, a thorough physical examination is performed on your pet as well as comprehensive blood work to ensure a patient is healthy enough for anesthesia. During any procedure that involves anesthesia, our highly skilled and trained team of veterinary technicians assist our doctors including technicians dedicated to monitoring anesthetic parameters like heart rate, respiratory rate and oxygenation.

If you have questions about your pet’s dental health, please call our office to schedule an appointment with one of our veterinarians. Any anesthesia concerns you may have can be discussed while our doctor evaluates if a dental cleaning and polishing is recommended and whether your pet is also a good candidate for anesthesia. Please call our office at North River Animal Hospital at 941-845-4448 or Braden River Animal Hospital at 941-745-1513.

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