A New Reason to Travel – Anesthesia Free Dental Cleaning!

All Smiles ... The Ladies and Me!

Have you ever traveled for medical or dental reasons? I realize, that it’s not a fun reason to cross a boarder but sometimes it is necessary. Either you need a specialist that isn’t available in your home town, or sometimes there is a preferred methodology that you can’t get “at home”. Sometimes it’s for financial reason (cheaper even with the cost of travel) and sometimes a certain surgeon or technician just has a reputation you trust and you are willing to hop in a car, on a train or fly to entrust yourself or a loved one to them and them alone.

This is how I ended up at D.O.G. with the lovely ladies from Healthy Smile Pet Dental Clinic in Miami Florida instead of getting my teeth cleaned in Ottawa.

Back in August (2012) the parental unit noticed I had a small buildup of plaque starting on my teeth and they were not ok with that. Even with the teeth brushing, antler chews and the oral gel, I still had more than what they consider an acceptable level. My breath was also no longer as fresh.

Why is dental care so important for pets?

Bad breath in pets, particularly in dogs, is often the butt of many a joke, but it is no laughing matter. Dental disease affects up to 80% of pets over the age of three (I just turned two), and just like humans, there can be some very serious consequences stemming from poor dental health.

Infected gums and teeth aren’t just a problem in the mouth — the heart, kidneys, intestinal tract, and joints may also be infected. The tartar and any infected areas of the mouth contain a multitude of bacteria than can ‘seed’ to other parts of the body. With regular dental care, you can prevent some of these more serious side effects. Sadly, poor dental care (along with obesity) is one of the leading reasons for premature death in pets. So much of it preventable.

I can hear most of you thinking: “So what is the big deal? Go see your vet!” … and therein dear reader lies the issue.

The bipeds are firmly against anesthesia just for teeth cleaning. In Canada, at this time, this is (almost) your only option.  So when the bipeds research for anesthesia free dental cleaning turned up nothing in Ottawa, Montreal or even Toronto … they looked South of the border.

I know there is a lot of controversy around this subject.  Just Google “Anesthesia Free Canine Dental Cleaning” and you’ll find a hoard of material supporting both sides of the argument. You’ll have to read what you find and decide for yourself where you stand on the issue.

We read up on this subject and for our family we feel that,  after listening to both sides and all arguments, we still can’t agree with those vets that are against Anesthesia Free dental cleaning.  We can’t accept that for a small dog like myself – with the huge risks involved with Anesthesia for a “under 5 pound dog” … well a yearly “going under” for teeth cleaning is simply NOT an acceptable option. Neither is “not getting the teeth cleaned until its needed”. We don’t do this for humans, so why would this be acceptable for canines?

Sadly (and oddly), Canadian vets are possibly even more against this than their US counterparts.

It's all Good!

In the US, a few Veterinarian Hospitals now actually offer Anesthesia Free pet dental cleaning.  Why? Clients are not just asking for it – they are demanding it.  As such, some Veterinarian Hospitals in the US are offering group cleaning sessions.  One day a month, clients can book a time slot to have their pets teeth cleaned without anesthesia.  If during that cleaning a pet is found to have far more than what an anesthesia free cleaning can tackle, the vet is right there and ready to step in and take care of things. Clients are recommended to do this every 6 months (just like for humans). I think this is wonderful concept and hope to see Canadian vets get on board.  Soon.

These vets are also understanding that this method is a good thing since it might be the only option for older pets, pets with heart failure, kidney disease, liver failure, pets with auto-immune disorders that can’t go under anesthesia without terrible risk.  They even – if begrudgingly – are admitting that in some cases younger healthy pets really don’t need to go under dangerous anesthesia just to clean their teeth.  As previously mentioned, it is a great solution for very small pets (under 5lb).  It is also a solution for obese pets and brachiocephalic pets (flat face breeds such as Pugs and  Bulldogs) who are more prone to having severe complications with anesthesia.

This method is slowly becoming a true “revolution” in the USA, and the good news is that people are finally understanding the importance of good oral health and preventive care.  But there is still some very real friction with some older veterinarians.  Some of them just don’t trust the method to be as good as the anesthetic cleaning (trust worthy companies are slowly changing their minds) and some of the vets are just not happy with it because they find themselves not making as much revenue on dental cleaning.

To give you an example: regular price for an anesthetic dental cleaning in Miami is about $400.00 and a group cleaning (not private) is about $125.00.  Naturally, lots of pet parents are choosing to do it without anesthesia instead. They save money while still providing care for their beloved canine.

Mostly – those vets still set against it have issues with the lack of certifying body to control the skills of the technicians of this new branch of pet care. Offering the dental group cleaning in a vets office goes a long way in fixing that since the vet or the dental technician that does anesthetic cleanings can supervise the process.

The lack of certifying body and controls mean that it is up to the owner to do their homework and make sure they are entrusting their pet to a trust worthy anesthesia free pet dental technician. For us it meant Healthy Smiles, because the ladies there were first Vet dental technicians before they set-up their own business.  So what do they suggest?

What should you look for?

  • The non-anesthetic method is perfect for those pets with grade 1 or 2 or plaque/calculus in their mouth. If it’s more than that a good technician should know how to recognize this and will refuse to do the cleaning.
  • References, references, references!
  • A good technician will be honest and stop the procedure right away if there is a need for extractions, if there is a bad infection and will refer your pet to a Vet to get the anesthetic dental it needs (extractions and antibiotics).
  • Look for a company that has only one concern: doing what’s best for the pet. In the case of Healthy Smile Pet Dental Clinic  they do not charge if they are unable to finish the dental due to more dramatic needs (see above bullet). They really just want the pets to get the care that they need.
  • They should be able and willing to answer all your questions – even by email or over the phone prior to your visit.
  • Ask if you can take photos or video. If they say no – go elsewhere.
  • They offer teeth cleaning products (teeth cleaning gels, toothpastes etc.) only after they have tested them on themselves.
  • They should explain the entire procedure before they start so that you and your bipeds can feel more comfortable and be better informed.
  • Should include polishing after scrapping.
  • Just like for children at the dentist, the biped(s) should be allowed in the room during the procedure (nothing to hide).

Scrape it Away!

What can you expect?

Sometimes, depending on the time that has lapsed from the last dental cleaning, plaque and calculus has sat under the gum line for years and is firmly attached to the enamel of the tooth and to the gum line itself.  When this plaque is remove some dogs may bleed, but this is very minimal.  Most dogs (like myself) don’t bleed at all, but you should be aware that this may happen and not panic.  It is very much like when a human goes to the dentist for a cleaning.

Here is what I experienced:

  1. I played with the technicians and was happy and trusting
  2. I got wrapped in a towel – much like a thunder shirt – to keep me stable
  3. Better on the floor than a table that way if a pet wiggles out they don’t have far to fall
  4. Scraping of plaque
  5. a break (I took a 5 min break to stretch my legs)
  6. Full check on teeth (I have no cavities, but the bipeds found out that 11 of my adult teeth never grew. So I only have 2 teeth for chewing. This explains why I am not a big fan of bones)
  7. Polish!
  8. Debrief to the bipeds
  9. Cuddles!
  10. Payment

In review: You should never be afraid to travel for medical – or dental – needs. Sometimes you can get better care elswhere. Have you ever traveld for similar reasons? What was your experience like? Please share in the comments below.

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16 Comments on “A New Reason to Travel – Anesthesia Free Dental Cleaning!

  1. What a great and informative post!!! I hope more clinics will become involved in the non invasice, anesthesia way of cleaning pets teeth!!

  2. Fascinating! Very informative reading with lots of “I did not know that” moments. I found it curious that you only have two adult teeth. Why didn’t the baby teeth get pushed out? That would be just as interesting. Did you get a little toothbrush and small container of dental floss after your visit was over? (I’m full of questions today)

    • I did loose my baby teeth … but no grown up teeth came in – so it’s just gums. Genetic I think. Not sure why. I got a really good oral gel that the bipeds can apply before bed with a q-tip. There are no toothbrushes small enough (not even cat ones) … no floss… now that would be… ummm…. interesting.

  3. After careful consideration, it makes perfect sense not to administer anesthesia for a dental cleaning. However, as mentioned in the posting, it depends on the breed and size of the dog. I would think that larger dogs or breeds that are high strung or energetic would need something to calm them down. I would imagine that with anesthesia-free cleaning all that is predetermined. Again, an informative post – thanks, Monte!

    • From what we understand – the dogs temperament plays more a part than its size. The young ladies said that some of the most feisty ones are the wee ones and they once had a boxer fall asleep while getting its teeth cleaned?! He was that calm!

  4. It was not for dental services, but years ago I travelled to St-Hyacinthe for heart screenings on my Cavalier and Golden Retrievers. I was establishing a breeding program and wanted to make sure it was built on solid grounds. After all, health should be the number one concern — if you get the perfect look too, it is a plus.

    University of Montreal veterinary medecine faculty has one of the best cardiologist as well as specialists.

    I also visited an orthopeadic surgeon in Lachine Québec (Dr.Planté) who did a surgery on a Yorkie who was suffering from Perthese disease. I could not have been happier with the services and the results.

    Honestly, I will go the distance for my dogs health.

  5. To clean teeth without anaesthesia (doctor arrive at your home) – the price is 10 dollars equivalent, doctor work quick and after 15 min, the dog is running and barking. To clean teeth with anaesthesia you can in the clinic only for equivalent of 50 dollars, you have to pay for the medicine, and you have to wait for half a day praying for your dog to wake up under medical supervision, our vets (the good ones with good reputation, of course)really don’t like to clean teeth with anaesthetics, even if it is more profitable for them. Our medicine (human and veterinarian) is the only thing left for us which is really cheap and good, but things change in this sphere very quickly at the moment to the worse, so i don’t really know for how long we will be that lucky, there are only two doctors left which I trust, one is in Kiev, and one is in Yalta, personal connections make great difference, in othe way it’s only bills, bills, bills. And taking into account that the average salary in our country is the same as fee for unemployed in Austria (equivalent of 600 Uero) it is really hard to pay for all these bills!

    • $10 … Wow. I like that the logic for it is there in the Ukraine. No pressure to put a tiny animal under for nothing. I am sorry to see that beautiful country struggle so very much. I wish I know what could be done.

  6. It is ILLEGAL to practice medicine without a license we will be reporting you all.This should only be done with supervision of a doctor!! This could be VERY dangerous to your pet!! This is disgustiing and a complete injustice to the public and the animals.

    • These are trained dental hygienist, so I am not certain who you would like to report them to… In addition, this is dental care and not medical care. Certified and 100% legal and licensed. Less dangerous than the alternative … I can not help wonder … did you read my article, or just post your opinion without attempting to understand the other side? It is dangerous for MANY to go under. This provides another option and vets are understanding this … albeit slowly.

    • Monte may not dignify this response, but I will. If you did your research, and it seems that you didn’t, you wouldn’t have posted this response. But you didn’t, and you have, which makes you look like a complete idiot. What you need to do is get the backstory behind Montecristo Travels, so the next time you decide to shoot off, you’ll have a better understanding of Monte’s owners. Do yourself a favor and keep similar comments to yourself.

  7. Well written and photographically well documented as usual Monte. I wish we had that here.
    As for Kevin, it does make one wonder – can he actually read?
    Well said Brad, it seem Kevin does not make a distinction between a well informed opinion and an angry and devoid of notion aimless rant.
    Reporting you all is it Kevin?
    Kevin get on with the program will you! It seems your problem is not with the blog or the hygienist or even with Monte.
    Your problem seems to be you do not know the difference between keeping your mouth shut and at least looking thoughtfuly and opening up and showing what any level of intelligence .
    Do us all a favor and learn that for future reference, ok!?
    We all know Monte and his family would not go into discussion with you as they are nice people, but the rest of us, like Brad and I, really don’t have time for the likes of you.
    I am being nice here Kevin.really.
    Just this once in attention to Monte.
    Regards W.Callaghan

  8. Pingback: A Trip to Laval Quebec, for a Dog Anesthetic Free Dental Cleaning Experience! | Montecristo Travels

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