I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to see that someone in California has introduced a bill to allow unsupervised, unregulated and unlicensed individuals to scale the teeth of pets, as long as they don’t use any sort of motorized equipment. If you haven’t followed this story, the crux of the problem lies in the fact that for many years, despite being told to cease and desist, people have offered to clean the teeth of pets without the use of anesthesia.
This new bill in California, Assembly Bill 2304, effectively now allows anyone to pick up a sharp dental instrument, attempt to restrain an animal that is fully awake and possibly frightened because of the restraint and try to scale off hardened calculus, plaque, stains, etc from a pet’s tooth that is exposed above the gumline.
Hmmm…well, I can already see one problem. Dental problems and dental disease don’t occur ONLY above the gumline…in fact, a good portion of each tooth of each and every pet is hidden underneath the gumline. We have talked before about how 28% of dogs and 42% of cats, with NORMAL LOOKING TEETH AND MOUTHS, actually have significant disease below the gingiva.
Next problem…without motorized equipment, there is not an easy and effective way to polish the teeth. Polishing is extremely important because it removes the micro-divots and deficits that are caused by…..wait for it….the sharp dental instruments damaging the enamel of the tooth. Scratches and other microscopic crevices on the teeth are great places for plaque causing bacteria to hide.
And finally, as I mentioned in the outset of this blog, these services are generally NOT overseen by a veterinarian. This means that you, the pet owner, are allowing someone who may not have adequate training, adequate understanding of dentistry as a whole or even adequate sterilization skills to poke, prod, scrape and cause damage in your pet’s mouth. If something horrible would happen, you would have NO recourse….there is no state agency that you could turn to for any sort of disciplinary action.
These businesses and people use fear tactics as their main source of marketing. By playing on the emotions of people when it comes to anesthesia, they persuade and sway pet owners to choose an option for the care of their pet’s teeth that is less than optimal.
In addition, defenders of this type of activity will ALWAYS turn the issue into a money issue. ”We are doing it to HELP pets…not like those greedy vets”. My answer to that..non-anesthetic dental scaling in California alone is a business that generates close to $7 million a year…all illegally. Don’t tell me that you are scaling this dog’s teeth out of the goodness of your heart!
Another common retort is that “pet owners need to have options”….well, you already have options. You can find a veterinarian who offers you the best value for the service and you can proactively prevent a lot of the issues by performing at home dental care for your pets.
Again, the bottom line is that these services are not inherently safe, they provide no health benefits (in fact, they may contribute to further problems) and they are very often illegal, especially when a veterinarian is not available for supervision. As always, veterinarians are the best option to turn to when you have pet healthcare needs or questions.
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