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Frequently Asked Questions

What is non-anesthetic dental (NAD) cleaning?

Our cleaning procedure involves hand scaling of facial and lingual surfaces of the teeth (including below the gum line) and polishing of all exposed surfaces. Animals are fully awake during the process and lie in our lap while we work. All cleanings are done under the supervision of a licensed vet to ensure that every pet receives appropriate care.

Why does my pet need an exam before each cleaning?

The CA Vet Board requires an exam by a veterinarian before any medical procedure can be performed on your pet. Because the condition of your pet's mouth may change between cleanings, an exam ensures that non-anesthetic cleaning continues to be appropriate for your pet.

Is NAD “just as good” as a cleaning under anesthesia?

The quality of our cleanings is comparable to a human dental cleaning, however, what we do is only a cleaning while the procedure done  under anesthesia includes much more. Unlike in human dentistry, extractions and dental x-rays cannot be done without anesthesia, so this is a factor that must always be considered when assessing whether non-anesthetic dental cleaning is appropriate at this time. Does your pet need just a cleaning, or do they need more than that? 

Does my pet need more than just a cleaning?

We assess your pet’s dental health before and during every cleaning. Before each cleaning, our vet will look for oral health issues that obviate the need for a cleaning under anesthesia. If your pet has loose teeth, extreme gum loss, signs of infection, or significantly broken teeth, our vet will very likely recommend a comprehensive dental procedure under anesthesia instead of an NAD.

Some more nuanced signs of dental decline are not always obvious during the vet exam. During the NAD cleaning itself, we will look for more subtle clues (such as pocketing between teeth and poor gum condition) and let you know if we think your pet needs a dental procedure under anesthesia in the near future. It's important to understand, however, that without dental x-rays, we are limited in our diagnostic capabilities and cannot detect early bone loss if there are no external signs of decline. 

What kind of tools are used and how are they cleaned?

We use the same type of manual scalers and curettes that are used for human dental cleanings. All of our scaling instruments are sterilized in an autoclave prior to each use. 

anesthesia-free teeth cleaning
How long will the cleaning take?

Dental cleanings for dogs generally take 25-40 minutes, depending on the cooperation of the dog and how dirty their teeth are. Cleanings for cats generally take 15-20 minutes. 

What if my pet resists?

It is common for some pets to squirm a bit initially but they typically settle down and tolerate the cleaning better than most people expect. This is not always the case, however, and if your pet exhibits undue stress we will stop the cleaning. 

What if my pet is aggressive or uncooperative?

If your pet shows aggression towards us, we will not proceed with the cleaning. We have lots of trick to manage uncooperative animals, however there is a small percentage of even very friendly pets that do not cooperate enough for us to do a good cleaning. 

How often are animals turned away?

Approximately 20% of first-time clients are referred to their primary vet for a comprehensive dental under anesthesia. This is typically due to either advanced periodontal disease or fractured teeth. We turn away about 10% of new patients due to behavioral obstacles. This can be aggression, or stress, or simply being too wiggly. (Sometimes the friendliest animals are the wiggliest!.)

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