Who performs the teeth scaling and polishing?
Donna Precour performs the scaling and polishing procedure, under indirect or direct supervision of Dr. Karen Pidick, DVM. After Graduating from Macomb Community College in 1995, Donna has been working as a veterinary technician for over 15 years. During this time she has performed hundreds of dental cleanings under anesthesia.
Is the procedure safe?
Donna and Dr. Karen Pidick will prescreen dogs prior to the procedure to assure that they are a candidate for this procedure. If antibiotics are deemed necessary by Dr. Pidick, she will prescribe them prior to the procedure. Any dog that has advanced periodontal disease will be referred to a veterinary clinic that performs complete prophylaxis under anesthesia so that x-rays and extractions can be done as necessary. Dogs are also screened for cooperativeness. Most dogs will allow this procedure with little or no restraint and the approach is very calm and slow. Also, technician is experienced and confident with the procedure. At no point will a dog that is uncooperative and scared be forced to comply. Hand scalers and currettes are sharp and if used on an uncooperative dog, they could cause injury. To avoid this, if the dog is not easily handled, the procedure will simply not be performed. Owners will be counseled prior to beginning that this is a possibility. There is very little risk of injury to the animal because of the consciencious manner in which the procedure is performed. Instruments are cleaned and sterilized in between uses to prevent spread of infections. Most procedures are performed in your home with your presence so you can see that the dog is being handled safely and effectively.
Is the procedure effective?
The scaling will effectively remove the tartar, plaque and calculus from most surfaces of the teeth above the gumline. The gingival sulcus in a dog with only mild gingivitis shouldn't be more that 1 - 3mm in depth. This is usually quite easy to clean as well as above the gumline. If there are any deep pockets noted, the owner will be informed that further dental care may be necessary. After hand scaling, the technician will use an ultrasonic cleaner to remove small bits of debris as well as flush the gingival sulcus. The last step is to polish the teeth in order to remove tiny scratches and imperfections in the enamel. Afterward, the owner is encouraged to brush the dog's teeth regularly to maintain a healthy mouth. Owners should notice significantly better breath and appearance after the procedure. By removing the calculus and tartar, especially at and below the gumline, the bacteria is also removed which can improve oral health. If infections are noted they will be treated by Dr. Pidick and follow-up examinations may be deemed necessary. As previously noted, there are limitations to this procedure. Only dogs with a normal mouth to mild gingivitis are good candidates for this procedure. The areas on the side of the teeth closest to the tongue may not be able to be completely cleaned. Fortunately, due to personal experience and professional knowledge, Dr. Pidick and Donna realize that this area is usually the cleanest area of the mouth and usually needs little attention. Overall, this cleaning procedure is effective at assisting owners in maintaining dental health, as part of an overall program.
Why do many veterinarians state that you cannot properly clean a dog's teeth without anesthesia?
This is mostly due to the fact that this is how dental cleanings have always been done. Also, taking the time needed to clean a dog's teeth without anesthesia would be prohibitive in a clinic setting. It is also true that not every technician would be able to perform this procedure without anesthesia - despite the fact that they are great at it while the dog is sleeping. It is true that, if money or anesthesia is not a concern, performing teeth cleaning only under anesthesia will allow for all possible procedures that may be deemed necessary. However, for many people, money and anesthesia are a big concern. Dr. Pidick understands that many dog owners want to do what they can to maintain their dog's oral health within their budget. That is why she can endorse this procedure with confidence, that although every possible procedure may not be able to be performed, there will be an outcome that is beneficial to the animal. Furthermore, as stated previously, there will still be plenty of animals that require complete dentals under anesthesia. Many dogs need teeth extracted or may need other advanced dental procedures. They may be in pain or just fearful and scaling and polishing teeth without anesthesia would not be possible or beneficial to the dog. Some of the inflammatory remarks regarding scaling dog teeth without anesthesia that can be found on the internet seem to be motivated by some unexplained emotion. Instead of allowing for different approaches to a problem, they seem to be vilifying other honest attempts to help. There are accusations that the procedure is unlawful, due to the fact that it may be performed by someone other than a veterinarian, that it may be construed as practicing veterinary medicine without a license. Under Michigan law, there is no mention of cleaning teeth, dentistry, or prevention of disease in the veterinary practice code. Even if this were the case, In The Pink Mobile Pet Care works closely with Dr. Karen Pidick under direct and indirect supervision, with her referring animals for teeth scaling and polishing. Furthermore, in almost all cases, the veterinary technician is the one performing the cleaning at a veterinary office, under the direct and indirect supervision of a veterinarian. The doctor usually only becomes involved if there are more indepth dental procedures that need to be performed - such as extractions. Although, it is possible that there could be problems with this procedure if it were performed by unknowledgeable or unscrupulous people, when performed correctly there should be no reason for a veterinarian to disagree with the procedure. It is important for owners to be diligent and informed about the needs of their pet and screen the knowledge and techniques of anyone offering an anesthesia-free dental cleaning for their dog.