Myth Busting: Pet Dental Oral Surgery and Professional Cleaning

Everyday veterinarians talk to pet owners about Pet Dental Surgery and there are so many myths and untrue beliefs out there! I have tackled a few of the most common ones in this blog
Dr. Lilla Yan
Royal York Animal Hospital

MYTH #1. Pets dont need their teeth cleaned.

Just like people, our pets’ teeth ideally should be professionally scaled and polished regularly. This procedure not only cleans off the obvious brown tartar that you can see but more importantly it cleans underneath the gum line. Scaling underneath the gums reduces painful gingivitis (swollen and painful gums) and helps the diseased gums heal, and reduces worsening of gum recession.

Here are some before and after photos for you to consider:

Hecktor Before

Hecktor (Cairn Terrier) Before Professional Cleaning

Hector after professional cleaning

Hecktor after professional cleaning

Sorbet before professional cleaning

Sorbet after

Sorbet after professional cleaning

MYTH #2. General anesthesia is scary and dangerous to my pet.

With modern technology, medications and anesthetic monitoring, the risk of anesthesia for healthy pets is very low. Pre-anesthetic bloodwork is done to endure a pet’s liver/kidneys/other internal organs are functioning well enough to handle the anesthetic. IV fluids during the procedure ensures their blood pressure is maintained at the correct level. While under anesthesia, we also monitor the pet’s heart rate/rhythem, oxygenation level, temperature, carbon dioxide level, blood pressure, etc; and we adjust the anesthesia according to a pet’s need.

Mr. Fluffy's dental cleaning

Mr. Fluffy’s dental cleaning

Mr. Fluffy 3 Mr. Fluffy 2

MYTH #3. General anesthesia is unnecessary for dental cleaning in pets.

In order to scale and polish all of their teeth at all angles, especially scaling under the gum line, it is simply impossible to do so properly with the pet awake. In March 2014, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled that it’s illegal for non-veterinarians to perform anesthesia-free dental cleanings:

Anesthesia-free dental cleaning only cleans away tartar on the tooth surface, but leaves behind the most important part of cleaning – cleaning under the gum line. So even though the tooth looks whiter, it does not address infection / bone loss under the gums, which in turn can have profound effect on a pet’s health.


MYTH #4. Extraction is a painful procedure for my pet.

If a tooth needs to be extracted, it probably has been causing pain for a while. Extraction does more to alleviate pain rather than causing pain. We do many things to minimize pain from extraction itself – pets get pain medications before anesthesia, while under anesthesia they wouldn’t feel any pain at all, they may also get local freezing to freeze part of the jaw to further reduce pain. After a dental surgery, a pet is prescribed appropriate pain medication to keep them comfortable. Vast majority of pets that have had extractions eat normally within 24 hours of the surgery.

An infection of a tooth root causing infection of the jaw bone

An infection of a tooth root causing infection of the jaw bone

This dog's jaw broke because of a chronic tooth infection.

This dog’s jaw broke because of a chronic tooth infection.

MYTH #5. My pet wont be able to eat after the extractions.

In the wild, animals need their teeth to tear away meat. In captivity with our kibbles and canned food, pets usually do not even any of their teeth to be able to eat their food properly. Many pet owners have also reported that, after extraction of painful teeth, their pet is eating better than before the extractions!