Your Pets Dental Health

Your Pets Dental Health

Hero’s Pets – 8246 w. Bowles Ave, Unit J Littleton, CO 80123 303.972.1926

If your pet has any of the following issues it is important to consider having Dental Radiographs (X-Rays) done to ensure a significant issue is not being overlooked:

  • Loss of appetite - Disinterest in chewing                  - Bad Breath
  • Nipping or other uniquely aggressive behavior
  • Digestive disturbance such as vomiting, burping, licking of the lips/walls/carpet/beds/etc
  • Swelling of the face, cheeks, nose, eyes (or bulging of the eyes)
  • Tenderness of the face or mouth - Drooling (unexpected)

These are common issues that dogs and cats often do not show symptoms of:

  • Fractures
  • Cancer               
  • Bone Loss                         
  • Retained Teeth               
  • Absorptive Lesions          
  • Oral Foreign Body – sticks, splinters, or even swallowed items that sit on the pyloric sphincter and block the natural flow of food being digested can all cause bad breath, abscesses, tissue to necrosis, retrobulbar abscess (infection in the sinus cavity *see below*), and infection.
  • Abscess above/below the gum line
  • Stomatitis
  • Bad breath with a sugary/sweet smell can indicate diabetes
  • Bad breath with an ammonia-like (pee) odor can indicate a kidney issue

These issues must be resolved, most surgically. Most of these issues cannot be identified during an Anesthesia Free Dental (AFD) cleaning because they cannot be seen visually. If they are identified during an AFD, the owner must ADDITIONALLY take their pet for a surgical dental. If they are not visible to the tech, the problem persists and will continue to get worse until identified and resolved. 

AFD’s provide consumers with the comfort of knowing their pet is not exposed to liver damaging anesthesia. Individual animals may have risk factors, such as heart or kidney disease, that require specialized and expensive anesthesia or they may very simply not be capable of tolerating anesthesia. 

Of course, AFD’s soothe concerns about anesthesia use. However, in circumstances where surgery is necessary, anesthesia is safer and more humane than leaving the medical issue unresolved. Here are some considerations to help you determine if AFD or surgical dental care is best for your pet:                 

Pros to Anesthesia Free Dental (AFD) Cleanings:

-No anesthetic drugs: avoidance of unnecessary anesthesia may help protect your pet’s liver.

-Less expensive in the short term

-AFD’s are generally performed in retail pet supply stores, not at the vet.  For some animals, this may be less stressful.

Cons to AFD’s for Healthy Animals:

-The instruments used to scrape off plaque and tartar off the teeth leave tiny imperfections in the dental enamel, with anesthesia it is possible to use a polishing instrument to smooth out these imperfections. Polishing is not done on awake dogs because the mechanical polisher is loud and scary. Techs and vets that do AFD may hand polish teeth, but this is akin to hand sanding with a mildly abrasive sand-paper vs machine sanding damaged wood. Insufficient sanding allows the tiny imperfections to collect plaque and tartar at a much higher rate requiring more frequent cleanings. Over time, this may end up costing more money than a dental done with anesthesia.

-An awake dog cannot be intubated. Therefore, the airway is not protected. Should a dog inhale a small piece of plaque (bacteria) this can easily cause a lung infection, like pneumonia.

-Dogs are placed on their back for AFD’s and may swallow significant amounts of the bacteria removed from their teeth. This bacterium is notorious for leading to endocarditis, a bacterial infection in the heart which is often fatal. Dental bacteria on teeth can cause this, and the risk is greater if the tarter is knocked off and swallowed. Depending on the amount swallowed, the bacteria may be harder for the liver to detoxify than anesthesia would have been. This is especially concerning for those using AFD services more than twice a year. Pets with advanced dental disease are generally sent home from the vet or AFD with antibiotics to decrease the risk of secondary infection. However, follow-up care is rarely done after AFD.

-Well over half of each tooth is below the gum line. Since this area can only be examined via Xray, AFD’s are at best, addressing 40% of the dental anatomy. Root decay, bone loss, abscess, cancers, fractures, and retained teeth cannot be assessed or treated by AFD’s. It is common for pets with visually clean and health teeth to have issues below the gum line.  These painful issues can lead to behavioral changes like nipping or biting, aggression, loss of appetite, systemic infection, heart disease, anxiety, and more. Without proper Xray’s the issue may not be noticed or addressed until it's too late to treat. **See images at the end of this document**

-Proper anesthetic protocol includes post treatment pain management. AFD’s are performed with the animals positioned on their back. Their mouths are held open during the AFD for up to an hour. This position can result in facial, spinal, or other joint discomfort following the cleaning. This is amplified by increased age. It’s not typical that pain medications are given after AFD’s.

-While there is a veterinarian present during the AFD, the "physical exam" is limited to a dental inspection. Underlying health concerns may not be noticed or addressed. No bloodwork is required. Therefore, any potential risk factors for complications with the excess bacterial load and positioning may not be identified prior to the procedure. Complications can be as extreme as fatal endocarditis or spinal cord compression leading to full paralysis.

-AFDs are done in a retail environment, so if any complications arise the facility is not equipped to address emergencies.

Cons for Older/Diseased Animals:

-Generally, older dogs and those with compromised immune systems suffer from the worst cases of advanced dental disease. They have less ability to cope with exposure to high bacteria loads while having the highest risk of swallowing large amounts of bacteria during AFD. 

-Kidney disease makes detoxification difficult. A well-managed anesthesia protocol, followed by a homeopathic like Arsenicum Album, could be lower risk than swallowing dental bacteria.

-Pets with Heart Disease don’t breathe well when on their backs. These pets will take shallower breaths, causing even less oxygen to perfuse an already compromised cardiovascular system. There is no ECG monitoring done during AFDs, so a dog or cat with an arrhythmia could have abnormal heart activity during an AFD. This negatively impacts the heart and body but there are no outward symptoms. Not only can this cause acute dangers, it also decreases the pets’ ability to detoxify bacteria or heal effectively after the procedure. 

-Dogs with heart disease are at even higher risk of endocarditis

Pets that are extremely stressed by being conscious during an AFD are just as likely to experience complications as a pet that was put under well run anesthesia. 

Cost: The AFD’s are $290 and they are recommended at least every 6 months. That's an annual cost of $580. The average cost of a surgical dental cleaning with Xray’s is $800 and they are recommended only once per year. The cost is similar but the outcome is dramatically different. (Extractions can incur an additional cost if they are needed.)

Without Xray’s to identify issues below the gum line, you may find yourself paying for AFD then ALSO paying for a comprehensive dental. Extraction costs are partially incorporated into the cost of a surgical cleaning, making the total cost less expensive than an AFD plus surgical dental. Most importantly, AFD’s clean the teeth but do not eliminate any serious, painful, dangerous or toxic conditions lurking below the gum line. Last, diagnostics done in association with dentals may identify other lingering health concerns in your pet, such as a struggling liver, kidneys, heart, or latent infection.

How to ensure your pet is safe and healthy when they get a dental

Ideally, dentals should only be done after:

- Dental Xray’s have been done to confirm the pet does not have retained teeth, abscesses, retrobulbar abscess, fractures, bone loss, foreign bodies, absorption lesions, stomatitis, or cancer in the mouth, skull, or sinus cavity.

- The pet is in good health. They have received a thorough orthopedic, kidney, and cardiac exam.

- The pet has had bloodwork to identify potential complications such as existing infection. 

If your pet is eligible for AFD, ensure:

1) A licensed Veterinarian is participating in the cleaning.

2) They have a strict and effective protocol to prevent pets from swallowing tartar.

3) They have a strict and effective protocol (and cost) if they identify a surgical concern.

4) They have a reasonable suggestion for frequency of cleanings.

5) Their methods and protocols actively reduce stress on your pet – or they don’t do the cleaning.

If your pet needs a surgical dental, ask the following questions:

1) Go to an ethical, experienced facility. Consider a Veterinary dental specialist. You wouldn’t go to a general practice doctor for your dental surgery. A dental specialist is better for your pet.

2) Ask the facility if an anesthesiologist is used during the dental, or if techs are monitoring anesthesia.

3) Ask if they pre-oxygenate before surgery (which is imperative in Colorado).


Give homeopathic support before and after the dental. Hero’s Pets can help with:

Arsencium Album - anesthesia detoxification

Arnica Montana – increases oxygenation and healing time

Hekla Lava – for cancers and tumors in the mouth.

Kreosotum – for teeth that quickly decay or blacken, and for mouth ulcers.

Lachesis Mut – for mouth ulcers that seep, for bleeding gums, for necrosis caused by foreign bodies, and teeth that hurt the whole face

Sulphuric Acid – for bad breath, ulcers, acid reflux, and bleeding gums

Symphytum – for loose teeth, helps tighten bones around the teeth

Silicea – for purging foreign bodies, including abscesses


Give detoxifying, organ supporting herbs before and after the procedure.

These products assist the liver in detoxing bacteria from the dental:

Elemental Solutions Restore (for liver, kidney, and endocrine support)

Micro-particle Colloidal Silver (for preventing infection)

Dr. Jen Hartley Carbon 60 (strong detoxifier)

Animal Essentials Liver Defense (which also supports the kidneys and heart)

Follow up care – brushing the teeth, a dental supporting diet, chews, and daily support.  

Hero's Pets can support you in ensuring your pets teeth stay clean between dentals. We have a variety of products to help make brushing and cleaning suit your lifestyle and schedule, and we have many dietary suggestions to decrease the tartar production in your pets’ mouths.