Anesthesia-Free Teeth Cleaning for Dogs

While this sounds like a useful service, it’s far from risk-free, and can cause more harm than good to your dog’s teeth, gums, and attitude about letting you near his mouth


Anesthesia-free teeth cleaning for dogs is offered by anesthesia-free dental clinics and by many groomers. This may sound like an attractive option, as many people are anxious about having their dogs undergo general anesthesia. But the reality is that cleaning the teeth without the benefit of general anesthesia will do more harm than good.

During this procedure, the operator uses a tool called a hand scaler to remove dental calculus from your dog’s teeth. A hand scaler is a long, thin metal tool with a hook on the end. The hook has a sharp edge on the inside of the curve and ends in a sharp point. If your dog moves his head even slightly during the procedure, the operator can lose control of this sharp instrument and cause serious damage to your dog’s gums.

Hand scalers are not effective at removing dental calculus from underneath your dog’s gums or between the teeth. Dogs may not allow the operator to reach the teeth at the back of his mouth, meaning that only the front teeth can be scaled. Most dogs will not allow an operator to scale the inside surfaces of their teeth.

Anesthesia-free teeth cleaning does not allow for a full oral examination of all tooth surfaces and the gums. And the majority of early to mid-stage periodontal disease is hidden below the gumline. Only dental radiographs can give us the full picture of what we cannot see on the surface.

Anesthesia-free teeth cleaning can be painful and traumatic for your dog. It may even make him averse to any dental care plan (like tooth brushing) you try to implement at home.