Preventative Oral Screenings & Cleanings Without Anesthesia: How Is That Possible?
Hi, my name is Kacee and I am an LVT (Licensed Veterinary Technician) with Animal Dental Care. I have been performing PDCA’s on cats and dogs for almost 8 years. PDCA is short for a preventive dental cleaning and assessment, which is essentially a dental cleaning without the use of anesthesia. What I do does not equally replace a regular anesthetic dental, so anesthetic dentals cannot be dismissed altogether. A PDCA is a valuable tool to use in-between veterinarian recommended anesthetic dentals.
During your pets care with me, I will perform an assessment of the teeth before I begin my work, also checking under lips and tongue. Just as your dental hygienist does, I will use the ultrasonic scaler to clean their teeth of any tartar and plaque buildup. If they are too noise-sensitive I can often just handscale depending on the degree of the disease. I then polish, rinse, probe, chart all findings as I go and report to a veterinarian if needed. On average the procedure takes 20-30 minutes and the animals do surprisingly well. I work in a room alone, just me and the pet. Because it is just us two, the patient is not distracted by anything else, such as their family, other pets, or happenings in the treatment area of the hospital. I have only been bitten once and it was when I was getting a dog out of a kennel. During a PDCA no one has gotten me yet! Fingers crossed…
In general pets who receive PDCA’s are recommended to see me every 6 months. However, small breeds and geriatrics are notorious for having a higher grade of dental disease and typically do better with PDCA’s on a quarterly schedule.
There are a few main differences between a PDCA and an anesthetic dental.
- The first and most obvious is that no anesthesia or sedatives are needed for a PDCA. I use a towel to swaddle-wrap cats and small/medium dogs. I sit on the floor and gently lay them in my lap just as you would an infant. Large dogs tend to just lay down and I put a leg around their rear end to keep them in position. Some older dogs don’t like lying down, so I just have them stand up or sit down, however they are comfortable which is most important!
- There are no radiographs (x-rays) taken during PDCA’s. I am unable to see any pathology under the gums since it nearly impossible to take oral films on an awake patient. I do however, probe under the gums and feel for pockets, lesions, or any abnormalities in the tooth’s texture. If I find anything concerning, I immediately pause the procedure and discuss the findings with a veterinarian. The DVM listens to my concerns, examines the mouth and lets me know whether I should discontinue the procedure and recommend a regular anesthetic dental or continue with my cleaning.
- I cannot work on them all! Every pet I work on needs to be screened by a veterinarian before I meet them. This is to ensure they have no major pathology present and are of an agreeable temperament. Both factors play a vital role in the success of a PDCA. In addition, some pets do not tolerate even gentle restraint, and others are very anxious with the noise of the ultrasonic scaler. I do have an extremely high success rate, but some pets are just not suited to the procedure. Often the happy go lucky nice dogs are wiggly and the little shy ones do amazing! Honestly you just never know how they will do. I take my time with them and recognize they are nervous. I talk to them, give them little breaks and lots of love. I do my best to treat them like they are my own.
I have been working strictly on teeth for many years and it has taught me how important it is to keep up oral care. Generally speaking, a PDCA is a straightforward, in-and-out procedure but I can also find things that need further evaluation. In the past I have found some crazy things like sticks lodged in palates, fractures under the gums, toy pieces stuck in between teeth, exposed pulp, and even hiding masses/growths. I will not clean your pet’s teeth if they need in-depth care that a routine cleaning cannot fix. As for home care, I strongly recommend brushing your pet’s teeth. It’s hard I know, but don’t give up! The benefits are tremendous!
Interested in learning if your pet is a good candidate? Schedule an exam and screening!