As veterinary dental specialists, we are often able to provide treatments that would be an alternative to performing extraction of a dog or cat’s teeth. Unfortunately, there are certain circumstances in which it may be in your pet’s best interest to have one or more teeth removed. The main indications for which we may recommend extraction(s) are when tooth related infection, pain or other oral diseases cannot be reasonably controlled by other means.
Extraction of an animal’s tooth is not as simple as it sounds or is often imagined. You cannot just “yank them”. Because of some anatomical differences, most veterinary extractions are actually often more difficult than extraction of a human’s tooth. Most of our pets’ (cats and dogs) are carnivores and therefore their root structures are complex and deep into the surrounding bone. Surgical approaches for extractions are the most efficient and safest means of tooth extractions for pets. Many roots are fragile and closely located to other important anatomical structures like major blood vessels, nerves, nasal cavity and even the eye. Roots must be completely removed and the surrounding bone must also be treated. At ADOS, most extractions are performed surgically and even “simple” extraction sites are closed surgically. We do not leave open alveoli (“sockets”) to heal on their own. Closed extractions sites are much more comfortable for the patient, healing is faster and far fewer complications occur. At ADOS, we make sure that the necessary tooth material and roots are completely removed. Improperly performed extractions can cause problems. They often go undetected because our pets cannot communicate their discomfort. If a problem is detectable or obvious to us, it has usually already reached a complication stage. If your veterinarian recommends an extraction, we suggest discussing with them about a referral to a veterinary dental specialist for evaluation and treatment so that a “complete exam” can be performed and that all options for saving the tooth can be exhausted and if extraction is necessary, is done with the highest level of care.
Situations where extractions of pet teeth are appropriate include:
- Periodontal disease has left the teeth unstable (due to the loss of bone and other supportive structures) and periodontal surgery or procedures would be ineffective in improving the health of a tooth. These teeth are often already loose.
- Fractured or abscessed tooth where an endodontic procedure or root canal is not appropriate or cost and follow-up care are concerns.
- When removing a smaller less important tooth will make a more important tooth more stable and prevent worsening periodontal disease associated with these teeth. These important teeth include: canine tooth (fang), maxillary fourth premolar (big tooth in the upper jaw) and mandibular first molar (big tooth in the lower jaw).
Questions about pet teeth extractions:
Q: Will my pet’s teeth shift after they are extracted?
A: Unlike human teeth, which will shift if one tooth is extracted, it is very unlikely that dog or cat teeth will shift to any great degree. This has to do with differences in the size, shape, root structure, bite forces and intent for function (humans are chewers, carnivores are cutters).
Q: Will my pet get “Dry Socket” after extractions?
A: Dry socket is a relatively common post-extraction complication in humans. It occurs, because most extraction sites are not surgically closed. This is an often unheard of complication when the extraction sites is properly treated and closed surgically. At ADOS, all extraction sites are closed surgically (sutured closed). Sutures are absorbable and do not require removal.
Q: Will my pet be able to eat after having teeth extracted?
A: Many clients are concerned about their pet’s ability to eat after extraction procedures. It is important to remember that the reason why a tooth may need to be removed. In almost all cases, it can be stated that the pet will do better without the teeth. Getting rid of sources of infection, inflammation and pain are very important to health and well-being. We can often ask a counter question; do you really believe that your pet is chewing with a tooth diseased to this extent? Remember that our pets are carnivores…not humans. Humans are chewers, grinders. Carnivores are cutters and gulpers. Most pet owners actually believe their pets chew and use their teeth like we do. This is a common misconception and taken advantage of by pet product marketing. The reason so many pets seem to do so well with badly diseased teeth or when they have no teeth is that they have an existing mechanism for swallowing most of their food whole. Many cats and dogs with perfectly normal teeth do very little or no chewing. If the food is an appropriate size for swallowing whole, they will!
As far as immediately post-procedure eating concerns, surprisingly, most patients (even with numerous teeth extracted) will be able to eat soon after their procedure. Most dogs or cats will eat the night of the veterinary dental procedure or the following morning. We typically recommend placing pets on soft food or softened food after a surgical dental procedure to minimize discomfort and decrease the likelihood of a pet disrupting the sutures prior to the gums healing.
Often if your pet enjoyed eating dry food prior to the procedure they will likely be able to return to a dry food diet after their extraction sites have completely healed. In fact, some pets with no teeth will prefer to eat hard food. This sounds ridiculous because they have no teeth, however, kibble is often small enough that it can be easily prehended, manipulated and swallowed whole without difficulty.