Myth #3: For minor tartar accumulations and mild gingivitis, a simple scaling without anesthesia will often be sufficient.
Basis for Myth: This myth likely grew from client concerns about the risks involved in general anesthesia. In order to offer some level of dental care at reduced risk, some veterinarians have offered "Standing Dentals". Groomers and breeders have also been known to offer this service. When finished, the visible portions of the teeth look clean to the naked eye and the animal's breath is often less offensive. This, coupled with a much lower fee and no anesthetic risk, tends to satisfy some clients.
The Truth: Proper dental care requires general anesthesia with a properly fitted, cuffed endotracheal tube. For an oral hygiene procedure (prophy) to be therapeutically beneficial, it must involve complete removal of not only all visible calculus and plaque, but more importantly, that which is below the gums. All periodontal pockets must be probed and charted prior to root planing (either with or without flap surgery). All exposed tooth surfaces must be polished after scaling to remove residual plaque and create a smooth tooth surface that will be easier to keep clean. Other concerns such as oral and gingival masses, fractured and worn teeth, orthodontic problems, etc., should be investigated and either treated or referred.
In the "Standing Dental", only the outer surfaces of the crowns are scaled. It is not possible to probe and clean below the gum-line, in between teeth or on the tongue and palate side of the teeth. It is not possible to polish the teeth in the conscious patient, nor is it possible to conduct a thorough oral and dental examination.
"Standing Dentals" leave plaque and calculus in places where owners cannot see it, so the owner is given a false sense of security that the mouth is healthy. "Standing Dentals" scratch the enamel surface but do not allow polishing so the tooth is left even more plaque retentive than before. "Standing Dentals" are unpleasant for the animals and so can make them head-shy which makes instituting an effective home-care program much more difficult. "Standing Dentals" often damage the gingiva as the animal wiggles about while there is a sharp instrument in the mouth. "Standing Dentals" do not allow for a thorough oral examination and so subtle problems are left undetected and untreated until they become serious and obvious problems which are usually much more difficult to treat.
Recommendation: Since "Standing Dentals" do more harm than good, refuse this service. A "Standing Dental" is bad for the pet (there are risks with no benefit) and bad for the owner (who pays for worthless and potentially harmful treatment).