Date: April 10, 2008

The Board of Registration of Veterinary Medicine ("the Board") voted today to adopt the following Policy Guideline. This policy guideline is intended as a recommended protocol for the profession to follow. The guideline set forth below does not have the full force and effect of law, as would a Massachusetts General Law or a Board rule or regulation. However, the Board uses policy guidelines as an internal management tool in formulating decisions that relate to issues in the practice of veterinary medicine.

Policy No. 08-05

In Massachusetts, only licensed veterinarians can practice veterinary medicine. Veterinary medicine includes veterinary surgery, medicine and dentistry. Anyone providing dental services other than a licensed veterinarian, or a directly supervised (as defined by 256 CMR 2.01) and trained veterinary technician, is practicing veterinary medicine without a license and can be subject to fines and/or criminal charges.

It is the position of the Board of Registration in Veterinary Medicine that dental scaling procedures performed on pets without anesthesia is inadequate and often medically unsound for the following reasons:

  1. Professional dental scaling includes scaling the surfaces of the teeth both above and below the gum line, followed by dental polishing. A critical part of a dental scaling procedure is scaling the tooth surfaces that are within the space between the gum and the root, where periodontal disease is active. Access to this area of every tooth is impossible without anesthesia in a canine or feline patient. Removal of dental tartar on the visible surfaces of the teeth has little effect on a pet's health, and provides a false sense of accomplishment. The effect is purely cosmetic.
  2. Dental tartar is firmly adhered to the surface of the teeth. Removing tarter with a hand scaler requires instruments that must have a sharp working edge to be used effectively. Even slight head movement by the patient could result in injury to the oral tissues of the patient, and the operator may be bitten when the patient reacts.
  3. Inhalation anesthesia using a cuffed endotrachel tube provides three important advantages - the cooperation of the patient with a procedure it does not understand, elimination of pain resulting from examination and treatment of affected dental tissues during the procedure, and protection of the airway and lungs from accidental aspiration.
  4. A complete oral examination, which is an important part of a professional dental scaling procedure, is not possible without anesthesia in a canine or feline patient. The surfaces of the teeth facing the tongue cannot be examined, and areas of disease an discomfort may be missed.