Professors speak out against use of dental implants in cats and dogs

Using dental implants in companion animals is not a widely performed veterinary procedure, but the trend is generating enough buzz that professors from multiple universities have staged a pre-emptive campaign against it in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA.

The UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine reported that veterinary dentists Dr. Frank Verstraete and Dr. Boaz Arzi, along with ethicist Dr. Jerrold Tannenbaum, have joined with professors from other universities to oppose companion animal dental implants in a commentary published in JAVMA.

The commentary acknowledges that not many veterinarians currently place implants, but voices concern that the trend might spread. The authors cite a groundswell of workshops, lectures, websites, and advertisements promoting potential implant-generated revenue for veterinarians. These same promotions also often claim that implants benefit animals, and that implant success in humans will equal success in animals, UC Davis said.

Concerned by the lack of scientific data regarding implants and questions about the ethics surrounding them, the authors collaborated to share their objections in the JAVMA commentary.

"We argue, however, that data suggesting dental implants are safe and beneficial in humans cannot be extrapolated to animals, 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 authors wrote.

The professors further argued that dental implants are unnecessary because extracting teeth in animals does not negatively affect their quality of life or mouth functionality. They suggested that dental implants are largely cosmetic, akin to ear cropping or tail docking.

Read the full commentary at the JAVMA website or in the Dec. 15 edition of the journal.