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.