Having made the decision that Frankie’s teeth needed to be cleaned professionally, I asked around about a good place to have it done. The veterinary practice I go to seemed like an obvious choice, but they charged $400 — too rich for my budget.
“Do you really want to put Frankie under anesthesia?” one friend responded. “He’s not young and he’s sick.” The receptionist at the vet’s office, who sometimes pet sits Frankie, said, “I know how to chip the tartar off his teeth if you want me to do that.”
Lots of groomers offer teeth scaling, as the tartar chipping procedure is called. Why not go for that quick ‘n’ easy service instead of the costly one with the scary anesthesia?
Then I looked into it further and found out why not.
Teeth scaling provides a sense of false security: Not only do these type of cleanings fail to prevent periodontal disease, which takes place below the gum line, but they create a false sense of security in the owner because the teeth look clean.
Calculus, commonly called tartar, is the hardened form of plaque, the bacteria-laden goo that naturally forms on and between teeth. It’s easy to chip tartar off the upper part, or crown, of the tooth — which is why it can be done without anesthesia — but that’s not where problems occur.
Teeth scaling does more harm than good. Painful below-gum scaling is not the only essential cleaning process that must be done under anesthesia in order to be safe and effective. Without the smoothing action of polishing and a final antiseptic rinse — only achievable with suction, since dogs can’t be trained to spit — the teeth and gums are even more susceptible to bacterial infection than they are before being scaled. And it’s difficult to perform an in-depth examination or to get accurate dental X-rays when the patient is squirming or making sudden moves.
It’s illegal to practice veterinary medicine without a license. The American Veterinary Dental College has a position statement on the topic, “On Companion Animal Dental Scaling Without Anesthesia.” It not only details the medical issues involved, but also points out the legal ones, noting that:
In the United States and Canada, only licensed veterinarians can practice veterinary medicine…. Anyone providing dental services other than a licensed veterinarian, or a supervised and trained veterinary technician, is practicing veterinary medicine without a license and shall be subject to criminal charges.
Ok, so I was convinced a dental under anesthesia was the way to go. But that didn’t make it any more affordable for me.
To be continued…