Why Pets are Put Under Anesthesia for Dentistry

It’s so important to get your beloved pet’s teeth and mouth checked on a regular basis because periodontal disease is one of the most common diseases we see in our companion animals! By three years of age, most dogs and cats have some evidence of dental disease. Diseases of the mouth, if not treated, are often painful and can lead to more serious health problems including heart, lung and kidney disease. Taking care of your pet’s teeth, not only allows them to have better breath but also increases their quality of life and life expectancy!

If your pet has significant dental tartar and gingivitis your veterinarian might recommend a full dental cleaning and examination under anesthesia. Why under anesthesia you might ask? Well here are some reasons why it’s so important that your pet’s dental cleaning and a comprehensive oral exam is done under general anesthesia:

=> Safety of the pet and the veterinary technician/veterinarian. Unlike you and me, who can obey our dentist’s instructions to open our mouths and turn our heads this way and that, your pets are not likely to cooperate enough to allow for a safe or thorough examination and cleaning if they are awake. And consider this, if your pet won’t sit still for you to brush their teeth, how do you think they are going to react to a stranger trying to scrape their teeth with sharp instruments?

=> Marked reduction in pain and stress for the patient. People don’t usually have to be anesthetized because we understand what is going on during a dental procedure – we understand when someone asks us to keep still in order to avoid being hurt. Our pets, on the other hand, do not understand what is going on, and many of them have severe dental disease and infection, and their mouths can be extremely painful. Placing them under anesthesia takes away the stress of being restrained and the pain from probing and cleaning.

=> Allows the removal of plaque and tartar above and below the gum line. At least 60% of cats and dogs’ normal tooth structure is under the gum line! If you are only removing the plaque and tartar from the visible crown then most of the tooth still can be covered with disease.

=> Allows intraoral dental X-rays to be taken. Dental radiographs have to be taken from inside the mouth, and there is no way we can perform them while your pet is awake, even in the most well behaved, tolerant pet! Dental X-rays are very important because they allow us to see below the gum line to check for infection, bone loss, etc.

If you are hesitant to put your pet under anesthesia for his or her dentistry due to the risks, check out this blog Anesthesia Fears Surrounding your Pet’s Dentistry.

Any other questions feel free to email or call us at Acadia Veterinary Hospital!

Written by Dr. Beth Martin, DVM