Anesthesia Mandated for Pet Dental Work

 for Dental Procedures by Leading Veterinary Organization, AAHA


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by Lorie Huston, DVM on August 30, 2013

Anesthesia is necessary for all dental procedures, according to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). In fact, AAHA feels so strongly about the need that they have mandated general anesthesia and intubation (passage of tube into the trachea) for all dental procedures. AAHA’s public pet education site, Healthy Pet explains more about AAHA’s general dental care guidelines.

Why Is General Anesthesia Necessary for Dental Work?

AAHA’s updated guidelines state that anesthesia ensures patient health and safety by permitting “immobilization without discomfort, periodontal probing, intraoral radiology, and the removal of plaque and tartar above and below the gum line.” For these reasons, AAHA believes that anesthesia is a necessity, not merely an option. The guidelines also note that intubation is essential to prevent the aspiration of water and debris during dental procedures.

“At least 60% of cats and dogs’ normal tooth structure is under the gum line. Partially removing plaque and tartar from the exposed crown is more cosmetic than therapeutic. Removing the plaque and tartar from both above and below the gingiva on the lingual and buccal surfaces requires general anesthesia and results in a cosmetic as well as therapeutic outcome. General anesthesia also facilitates proper pain- free probing of each tooth’s support and the required immobilization necessary to take intraoral dental films. Finally, intubation during general anesthesia protects the trachea and prevents aspiration of water and oral debris.”

AAHA is not alone in the belief that anesthesia is necessary for dental work. The American Veterinary Dental College, recognized in the profession as the expert voice in pet dental care, has also reviewed, approved, and endorsed these new guidelines.

Who/What Is AAHA and Why Is Their Opinion Important?

The American Animal Hospital Association is a leading organization in the veterinary profession. The group fosters excellence in health care for small animals. AAHA is well-known and respected in the veterinary field for its establishment of standards of care for practicing veterinarians. These standards are widely accepted as representing the highest quality of pet care. AAHA is the only organization that accredits animal hospitals throughout the U.S. and Canada. AAHA-accredited hospitals voluntarily choose to be evaluated in order to become accredited. Accreditation is granted only to those hospitals that meet AAHA’s high standards.

This matters to you, as a pet owner, because you want the best for your pet. That goes without saying. Choosing an AAHA-accredited hospital guarantees that the hospital that you’ve chosen to care for your pet (and each veterinarian who practices there) has made the commitment to practice only the highest in pet care.

AAHA accreditation is not a requirement for any hospital. It is entirely voluntary. Many hospitals that are not AAHA-accredited provide excellent care. Not being accredited does not mean that a hospital is substandard or that the hospital practices poor medicine. But sometimes it can be difficult for a pet owner to evaluate the quality of an animal hospital, especially if there has never been any interaction with the hospital; for instance, when a pet owner is looking for a new hospital to care for their pet. AAHA accreditation is a good indicator that the hospital in question will be able to provide high quality pet care.

What Does This New Mandate Mean for You and Your Pet?

Needless to say, these new guidelines have caused a great deal of consternation in the veterinary profession. There are a number of veterinarians (as well as a fair number of paraprofessionals that perform “standing dentistries” for their clientele) that believe that dental work, at least some dental work, can be provided without anesthesia. Some of these people have spoken out quite loudly about these new standards.

These standards are mandatory only for AAHA-accredited hospitals. This is not a profession-wide mandate. However, those veterinarians that choose not to follow the guidelines will not be able to seek or maintain AAHA accreditation.

What do I think of these dental care guidelines? I applaud them. I don’t believe that proper dental care can be provided without anesthesia. I encourage pet owners to pursue home care, such as brushing. However, the care provided in a veterinary hospital goes far beyond what you can provide your pet at home. It compliments your home care, to be sure. But just as people need to go the dentist to have care periodically, pets need to go to the veterinarian for dental care periodically.

People, Even Children, Can Have Dental Work Without Anesthesia. Why Can’t Pets?

I can’t answer this question any better than AAHA already has. So I’ll just quote them:

“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. However, even some people react so strongly to dental procedures that they need to be sedated. In people, a trip to the dentist most often means cleaning clean teeth; with dogs and cats, painful periodontal disease is commonly present which needs to be treated with anesthesia.”

Anesthetic Risk and Dental Procedures

I understand that lots of pet owners are afraid of anesthesia. I know there are lots of scary stories that circulate. I get it, I truly do. However, anesthesia may not be nearly as risky as you think. The veterinary profession has come a long way and anesthesia is safer today than it has ever been. Read more about modern veterinary anesthesia and the precautions your veterinarian will take with your pet in Modern Veterinary Anesthesia.

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About Lorie Huston, DVM Lorie Huston is an accomplished veterinarian, an award winning blogger, a talented author and a certified veterinary journalist. She is available for writing assignments, blogging and social media consultation, and SEO strategy.

This article is posted and shared through the courtesy of the Pet Health Care Gazette