California scales back illegal veterinary dentistry services


Sacramento, Calif. -- Groomers will no longer be able to include dental scaling on their list of services in California.

Sacramento, Calif.

— Groomers will no longer be able to include dental scaling on their list of services in California.

California’s Department of Consumer Affairs Veterinary Medical Board voted unanimously Oct. 17 to strengthen language on existing regulations that prohibit the use of dental scalers by unlicensed persons.

The previous regulation simply stated that use of instruments for preventive dental procedures on an animal’s teeth, gum or related tissue was considered a “dental operation,” which is included within the scope of veterinary practice.

The clarified language specifies that the use of dental scalers and the practice of scaling are within the scope of veterinary practice. The new regulation only allows unlicensed persons to use cotton swabs, gauze, dental floss, dentrifice or toothbrushes on an animal’s teeth.

The veterinary medical board says the new rule will help the state enforce unlicensed activity.

The California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) applauds the decision, saying the rule change was long overdue.

“While CVMA believes the current law clearly outlaws the use of a scaler, unlicensed teeth cleaners who are not under the supervision of a veterinarian have for many years continued to illegally use this device and cause harm to animals,” says CVMA President H. Jay Kerr, DVM. “This regulatory change will end the debate once and for all on the definition of a ‘dental operation’ and allow for increased consumer protection and prosecution of unlicensed activity.”

But the law does not prohibit pet owners from easily buying dental scalers in most pet supply stores for less than $5, opponents to the new rule argue. In fact, they have vowed to take the issue to the California legislature next year. Some groomers contend they are providing pet owners with a more affordable option for pet teeth cleaning than veterinarians.

Matt Gray, a lobbyist with Capital Alliance in Sacramento that represents the grooming chain Canine Care, alleges the new rule will “kill 800 California jobs” by preventing grooming facilities from offering teeth-cleaning services.

Gray contends the new rule is only meant to increase revenue for veterinarians.

“This is all about money, and individual state officials using their position to increase profits for their own private practices,” Gray says. “There is no evidence to support this change in state law, and it will definitely hurt consumers.”

Cosmetic teeth cleanings (without anesthesia) cost about $100 when performed by non-veterinarians, while veterinarians charge anywhere from $400 to $800, Gray contends. The teeth-cleaning service by non-veterinarians is considered a $12 billion per year industry, Gray notes.

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