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20/20’s Piece on Veterinarians: Dentistry, Part 1

In November, 2013, 20/20 aired a piece that claimed that vets try to “upsell” their clients on vaccinations and procedures that aren’t needed. 20/20 used dental cleanings as an example of something that is widely recommended and, according to the veterinarians 20/20 consulted, not necessary.

Unfortunately, the veterinarians interviewed for the piece were not up-to-date with the latest research on dental disease from the last twenty years. As we know, dental care recommendations for humans dictate that we brush our teeth twice a day and visit our dentist twice a year. A tooth is a tooth, whether it belongs to a human or an animal.

As a board-certified veterinary dentist, it disappointed me to see 20/20 broadcast this piece with such an out-of-date view. Up until about twenty years ago, both vets and doctors for people thought that animals and new babies couldn’t feel pain because they couldn’t say so! So much has changed since then, and plenty has changed in the veterinary dental industry too.

If a vet tells you your pet needs a dental cleaning, it is fair to ask: “Why is it important for pets to have regular dental cleanings (under anesthesia)?” Your vet should be able to answer this questions for you.

The answer, quite plainly, is that 80% of dogs have gum disease by the time they are 5 years old. Just like in people, it can only be prevented through regular brushing and care. In cases where the owner waits too long, the pet loses; it has lived in pain and ultimately, loses teeth. The owner also loses because he or she feels really bad about the pet’s discomfort, and the financial costs are high.
Read our blog next week to learn why your pet’s dental cleanings should always be performed under anesthesia.

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