I am increasingly noticing the following signs go up over groomer storefronts, “Painless Gentle Dental,” “Anesthesia Free Gentle Dental,” and other variations. When I see it, I photograph the signs and report them to the Florida State Veterinary Board. Essentially, these groomers are trying to sell dental services although none has a medical license or training to do so. Not only is it illegal, but it is a serious danger to your pet.
While groomers offering tooth brushing services are perfectly acceptable, getting their hands on dental tools and passing off their untrained use of them as a replacement for a dental prophylaxis properly performed by a veterinarian, is quackery in its most serious sense. Not being trained to use these instruments leads to poor cleaning, especially below the gum line where the tartar exerts its worst damage, but also results in frequent injury, infection, tooth fractures, and enamel damage. Not following up scaling of the teeth with a proper polish, leaves pits and grids on the teeth that serve as matrix to actually make tartar likely to adhere more readily in the future.
What’s more, groomers often do not scale the back teeth and the inside surfaces of the teeth either because they are satisfied to only clean the teeth and surfaces that are visible to the owner, or they lack the ability to get in those areas because most dogs will not open up and say “Ah.” Thus the inner surfaces of the teeth, rear premolars and molars are left virtually unclean, while the dog owner is left with a false sense of security that her pet has healthy teeth and gums.
Case in point, I saw a 12-year-old Shih Tzu recently for a routine visit. The owner was so surprised when I told her that her dog had Stage 4/4 periodontal disease, the most severe level of periodontal disease, since her dog was getting dentals from her groomer once every 6 months for her entire life. Sure enough, the incisors, canine teeth, and forward premolars were clean, but the rear teeth and inner surfaces of the teeth have severe tartar, pus at the gum lines, gum recession, and bone loss. I ended up having to perform 14 tooth extractions on the dog, in the course of two hours of oral surgery, at significant expense to the owner.
Groomers performing dentistry is unethical at best, illegal and dangerous at worst. Not only should you avoid allowing a groomer to offer your dog dental services beyond tooth brushing, but you should report a groomer offering such services to your state veterinary board.
Dr. Roger Welton is the President of Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne, FL, Chief Editor of the Veterinary Advice and Information Website, Web-DVM, and founder/CEO of Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care