dog dentist

What is Non-Anesthetic Dental Cleaning?

Non-anesthetic dental cleaning, also known as Non-Professional Dental Scaling (NPDS), has been gaining popularity amongst the natural pet care community recently.

The method, as its name suggests, is a process in which your dog’s teeth are cleaned without the use of anesthesia. This appeals to pet owners who are nervous about having their dog anesthetized, or who own elderly or large breed pets that are more likely to have complications under general anesthesia. While the idea is appealing, non-anesthetic dental cleaning can be problematic. Many veterinarians criticize the procedure as unnecessary and even harmful or traumatizing. Despite this, some veterinarians believe that non-anesthetic dental cleaning can be a helpful supplement to a dog’s dental care plan. It is important to remember, however, that non-anesthetic dental cleaning should not replace normal veterinary dental care done under sedation. Here’s a quick look at the pros and cons of the process.


Both the American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC) and the AVMA have formally condemned the use of non-anesthetic dental cleaning. According to the AVDC, non-anesthetic dental cleaning can be traumatizing to pets who need to be forcefully restrained during an uncomfortable, even painful, procedure. “While some pets may appear to tolerate this restraint better than others,” the AVDC states, “your pet is still being restrained for a lengthy period of time with no ability to understand why or what is happening to them.” Non-anesthetic dental cleaning is also problematic because only plaque above the gum line is scraped away. This leaves the dog’s teeth visibly whiter but neglects tartar buildup beneath the gums—where gum disease is likely to occur.


The largest pro to non-anesthetic dental cleaning is, obviously, that your dog does not need to be anesthetized during the process. This can be helpful for high-risk patients. However, most dogs will still need to undergo sedated cleanings periodically. Non-anesthetic dental cleaning is also an option for pet owners who can’t afford traditional dental services for their pet. Despite the downsides, many vets agree that, for the client who might skip dental procedures on their pet altogether, something is often better than nothing at all. According to an article written by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), Pet Dental Services, a company that provides non-anesthetic dental cleanings, suggests several scenarios in which the procedure may be appropriate. “Anesthesia-free cleaning might be an option for a young dog with mild buildup,” the article says. “In another scenario, a dog might undergo dental procedures under anesthesia to address pathologic changes, then an anesthesia-free cleaning six months later to remove buildup. Anesthesia-free cleanings also might be an option for pets that truly cannot go under anesthesia.”


The jury is still out on the benefits and potential risks of non-anesthetic dental cleaning, but by talking with your veterinarian, you should be able to figure out the right choice for your pet. Given your pet’s temperament and situation, non-anesthetic dental cleaning could be a useful addition to his dental care. For some pets, however, this procedure might just do more harm than good.

Holly Zynda

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