Anesthesia-free dentistry: controversial issue sparks discussions

We’re aware that there are veterinarians who are angry that Dr. John de Jong, Chair of the AVMA Board of Directors, was quoted in a JAVMA News article as supporting anesthesia-free dentistry (also called non-anesthetic dentistry or conscious dental cleanings) and expressing a hope that AVMA and AAHA would revise their positions on the issue.

It’s understandable that an apparent departure from AVMA policy by one of its leaders would introduce questions and uncertainty, and these concerns are valid. “I can fully appreciate that sensitivities were touched when JAVMA reported my comments by name and officer position,” Dr. John de Jong notes. On the other hand, however, we ask our members to consider that progress – scientific or otherwise – is best made when firmly-held assumptions are questioned and re-evaluated in light of current evidence and societal contexts. Spaying and neutering animals is a perfect example: the long-standing belief that spaying and neutering uniformly between six and nine months of age is appropriate for all pets has been called into question, leading to excellent discussions about the ideal timing, benefits and risks of the procedures..

The scientific method involves asking questions, constructing and testing a hypothesis, and analyzing and communicating the results. Is there a place for anesthesia-free dentistry or conscious dental cleanings in veterinary medicine? Dr. de Jong and many others feel there is a place for it. From here, it’s up to our profession to test that hypothesis and take action based on the results.

At the recent NAVC meeting, Dr. de Jong and two other officers of the AVMA Board of Directors met with a leader from the American Animal Hospital Association and two diplomates of the American Veterinary Dental College to discuss the issue. They were able to come to a consensus that anesthesia-free dentistry warrants further investigation to determine its efficacy and whether or not it has a place in the delivery of veterinary services. A university research study was proposed.

We’re also looking into hosting discussion about this topic at this summer’s convention. Stay tuned for more information – we’ll provide updates on this blog.

6 thoughts on “Anesthesia-free dentistry: controversial issue sparks discussions

  1. I just spoke with Dr Jong.I appreciate him taking the time to talk to me and discuss the issues. Thank you for replying to my concerns.Color me impressed AVMA.

    • Dr. Darby,

      That is good. Has anyone from the AVMA commented on what they plan to do about the valid concerns that many members of our profession have regarding this issue?

    • Interesting you cite scientific method as way to question what we do for our patients.I think that is an excellent approach.However, how does that fit with dr DeJongs “feelings” that anesthesia free dentistry is valuable.Surely you are not implying that Dr deJongs “feelings” are consistent with scientific method.How do you evaluate “feelings”? Is it OK to base our treatment of animals on “feelings”.We can wait to see if the scientific method actually validates our “feelings” and then start using anesthesia free dentistry because we have proven that our “feelings” were right.However, is it fair, professional or even ethical to expose our patients to novel treatments based SOLELY on “feelings”? That doesnt seem consistent with scientific method at all.

      It is interesting that you used the word “anger”.That is an emotion.I am not “angry” dr DeJohn supports anesthesia free dentistry.I think that he has chosen to abandon scientific methods and has made an emotional decision to embrace anesthesia free dentistry.I think he is being unethical exposing his patients to a procedure that has no evidence of efficacy or safety and allowing non veterinarians to work under the guise of veterinary supervision.Anesthesia free dentistry is illegal in Canada and it violates the practice act in some US states.Can you really say this is the same as the debate over when to spay or neuter a pet.I think at best that is misdirection and at worst disingenuous.

      I find it ironic that you cite the scientific method to support a colleague that seem by his very actions to have turned his back on science in favor of “feelings”.

      SO you say our concerns are valid.What exactly is AVMA planning to do to address those valid concerns .As a dues paying member I would like to know how you plan to address what appears to be an attempt by a senior AVMA board member to undermine to position that AVMA and AAHA have on anesthesia free dentistry.THere is an obvious conflict of interest here since Dr DeJong uses the services of a NAD company.I would have thought that as a senior AVMA official he would be 100% behind AVMA policies and would understand that him publicly stating that AVMA policy should change to support something he “believes” may not only be construed as not only an endorsement for anesthesia free dentistry, but also an undermining of the AVMA position on this procedure.

      • Well stated, Dr. Darby

        ‘SO you say our concerns are valid.What exactly is AVMA planning to do to address those valid concerns’

        The cynic in me thinks that the AVMA will convene a task force to study the available research and then forbid the task force members from studying anything related to nonanesthetic dentistry.

        We could go through this pathetic attempt by the AVMA to justify the actions of their chair, but really, what is the point. It is hopeless and useless.

        I am saddened that no one in our profession is “minding the store”, but not surprised. My decision to drop the AVMA is only strengthened by issues like this.

        Keep up the good work. When membership continues to decline, take a good look in the mirror.

      • Hello? Hello? DO I not deserve the courtesy of a response? is anyone going to answer my question?