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UC Davis Professors Urge Against Use of Dental Implants in Companion Animals

January 30, 2014 – In a recently published commentary in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA), two veterinary dentists (Frank Verstraete and Boaz Arzi) and an ethicist (Jerrold Tannenbaum) from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, lead a collaborative effort with professors from other universities to speak out against the use of dental implants in dogs and cats. While implants are commonplace in human dentistry, they urge veterinarians to resist transferring this application to veterinary patients. The number of veterinarians currently placing implants is limited, but the commentary warns this could soon change, and they’d rather not see that happen.

There are now many workshops, lectures, websites and advertisements proclaiming the benefits of implants in pets, not to mention the potential to generate more income for veterinarians. Also, claims that success in human patients will offer similar benefits to animals are making the rounds.

“We argue, however, that data suggesting dental implants are safe and beneficial in humans cannot be extrapolated to animals,” states the JAVMA commentary. “… that evidence regarding the safety and efficacy of dental implants in dogs and cats is currently insufficient to justify their use, and that the claimed medical and quality-of-life benefits associated with dental implants in dogs and cats do not outweigh the potential risks associated with them.”

The article goes on to argue that functional demands of an animal’s use of its teeth are much different than that of humans. Therefore, dental standards for humans and animals can be quite different, noting that animals would not be able to exercise the proper care needed following the implantation.

Possibly the most important aspects of the article, however, are that implants are unnecessary, unethical and that there is lack of scientific evidence suggesting implants are effective and safe.

“We are not aware of any published peer-reviewed studies of the long-term efficacy and safety of dental implants in pet or working dogs,” the commentary continues. The article also notes that cats were not even involved in the development of dental implants for humans, like dogs were.

The authors state that teeth extractions in dogs and cats have no negative impact on their mouth’s functionality or their quality of life. They are able to eat normally and engage in numerous activities that involve the use of their mouth.

The article concludes with an argument that the only benefit of a dental implants is esthetics, and likens them to cropping a dog’s ears or docking its tail, both of which are opposed by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). The team urges the AVMA to adopt a similar stance against dental implants.

The full article can be read at: http://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/full/10.2460/javma.243.12.1680

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