Policy says dental procedures should be done under anesthesia

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The AVMA House of Delegates voted July 25 to approve revisions to the AVMA policy “Veterinary Dentistry” including addition of a statement that dental procedures should be performed under anesthesia.

The AVMA Council on Veterinary Service proposed the revisions to the policy for clarity and to add language that addresses equine dentistry. Among the revisions was the addition of the following statement: “When procedures such as periodontal probing, intraoral radiography, dental scaling, and dental extraction are justified by the oral examination, they should be performed under anesthesia.”

Veterinary dental procedure in progress in a clinic
(Photo by Malinda Larkin)

The council gathered input on the policy from AVMA members as well as the American Veterinary Dental College, American Animal Hospital Association, and American Association of Equine Practitioners. The AVMA Board of Directors referred the revisions to the House of Delegates with a recommendation for approval.

Dr. Nancy Scanlan, delegate for the American Holistic VMA, spoke against the revisions on the floor of the House. She said a study is in progress to compare the results of hand scaling with and without anesthesia, so she believes it is premature to recommend hand scaling be done only under anesthesia.

“I think this goes a little bit beyond what I would like to see as far as recommendations to veterinarians,” Dr. Scanlan continued. “I think that we need a little bit more leeway in being able to use our own judgment as to what to do when.”

Dr. Scanlan was referring to a study initiated by Pet Dental Services Inc., a national provider of nonanesthetic dental care under the supervision of veterinarians. The working title is “A comparison of oral examinations and dental cleanings in non-anesthetized and anesthetized dogs.”

Another addition to the AVMA policy “Veterinary Dentistry” is the following statement: “Visual or radiographic recognition of oral or dental pathology and accurate assessment of periodontal health by probing of pockets require sedation or anesthesia.”

Dr. Kate Knutson, alternate delegate for AAHA, believes radiography under anesthesia is necessary for pet dental care.

“The only way you can provide dental diagnostics and come up with a therapeutic plan is to do dental radiography,” Dr. Knutson said to the House. “We have many, many, many studies showing us of the need for that and demonstrating how something that looks normal when you’re just looking at it with your eyes is abnormal once you take radiographs.”

Starting late last year, AAHA began requiring AAHA-accredited hospitals to anesthetize patients undergoing dental procedures, including cleanings.

The AVMA Council on Veterinary Service has formed a subcommittee to investigate nonanesthetic dentistry and other methods of dentistry that are being developed.