The problem with tooth cleaning for a dog, even a tolerant one, is that without anesthesia the dog would have have his mouth open for a very long time. Think about when you get your teeth cleaned at the dentist’s office. It’s tough for us to keep our mouths open patiently for 15 or 20 minutes! (At least it is for me.) You’re wise not to want to put him under automatically, and if you have a good vet, then you should be able to talk to them about your hesitation and ask if the risk is really, truly, worth the benefit. Sometimes, we can clean our dog’s teeth very well at home using a toothbrush and special dog toothpaste or even a damp, rough rag wrapped around an index finger and there isn’t a need for a professional tooth cleaning. Other times, the dog’s teeth are so tartar-covered that it’s in his best interest to have the risk of anesthesia in order to offset the damage that poor dental condition can bring.