Root Canal vs. Extraction of Dog or Cat Teeth

Broken Dog Tooth Needing Root Canal - Veterinary Dentistry

A broken dog tooth needing endodontic or root canal therapy.

Pet owners are often unaware that in some cases they have the option to choose veterinary endodontic treatment (root canal) as opposed to an extraction of a broken or dead tooth. This may sound strange and not necessary for a pet, but there are some things you might want to consider before opting to have a dog or cat’s tooth extracted without further evaluation from a veterinary dental specialist.

  1. Some teeth are more important including the pre-molars, back molars and canine teeth. Pre-molars and molars are very deeply rooted and extraction is painful as the roots must be extracted from the bone. The canine teeth are also extremely important and extraction of these may compromise the jaw bone or weaken nasal structure.
  2. Teeth are vital in your pet’s ability to chew effectively. When important chewing teeth are extracted the teeth don’t work together for both chewing and cleansing, which significantly increases the chances for future periodontal disease.
  3. Certain upper canine extractions may lead to the lip folding over the gum line, which in turn may be traumatized by the lower teeth hitting the lip while chewing.
  4. Certain teeth may have an abnormal root structure (dilaceration). This makes an extraction very difficult with potential complications from root fracture, inability to remove root tips, bone fracture and excessive bleeding.
  5. Excessive bleeding, root fracture, jaw fracture and lip trapping are all possible complications of extraction, especially for certain deep rooted teeth.
Radiograph x-ray of dog root canal - vet dentistry

Radiograph (X-ray) of endontic files in dogs tooth to prepare for fillings.

What does a root canal on a dog or cat involve? In short, one to two small holes are drilled in the tooth, infected pulp (nerves and vessels within the tooth) is removed, the inside of the tooth is cleaned, and filled with material that won’t support bacterial growth (infection).  The final step is the placement of a filling to prevent bacteria from entering the treated tooth. Following the root canal, a crown may be recommended to strengthen the treated tooth.

Pet root canals are not always recommended and there are certainly cases where an extraction is the optimal treatment for a particular dog’s or cat’s tooth. However, the only way to adequately assess the dead or broken tooth is with dental radiographs (x-rays). This provides a complete picture of both the tooth as well as the root and bone structure. Without an x-ray, a veterinarian would have no idea what lies below the tooth and to proceed with an extraction leaves the door open for numerous complications and costs to the pet owner.

Dr. Tony Woodward, DVM, AVDC discusses root canals in pets.

Expense is always a consideration, however, a root canal may not be much more cost than a surgical extraction of a tooth particularly in the case of larger teeth or those with complicated root structures. In addition, preservation of your pet’s tooth may prevent costs related to future periodontal disease or bone loss. A veterinary dentist will be able to provide you a thorough exam and detailed treatment plan with explanation of costs involved.

Root canal treatments are very successful and many times a far better solution than an extraction, which can be painful to the pet and involve significant bone loss. Board certified veterinary dentists have performed thousands of root canals on dogs, cats and even exotic animals. You can count on knowing that they will provide an accurate assessment and discuss your pet’s individual situation and whether saving the tooth with root canal therapy is an option.

Ask your local board certified veterinary dentist about root canal options for your dog or cat:

 

Anesthesia & Older Pets – Is My Pet Too Old?

Older dog after dental care under anesthesia

Chico, an 8 year old Chihuahua, was treated by Dr. Kressin for severe periodontal disease and oral nasal fistulas.

Owners of aging dogs and cats are often hesitant about allowing their pet to be put under anesthesia for a dental cleaning or other procedure. There is a fear that the pet is too old and not able to handle the anesthesia, but this is really not the case at all. As with humans, old age isn’t a disease and when using the proper anesthetic dosages and protocols, anesthesia is quite safe for an older pet — just as it’s safe for an older person. Continue reading “Anesthesia & Older Pets – Is My Pet Too Old?” »

Lending a hand to provide service dog oral health exams

During the month of August our group of Board Certified Veterinary Dentists was proud to provide free oral health exams to service dogs through a program sponsored by the American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC). Through this program service dogs received oral health exams to help identify any areas of painful oral disease and the dog owners were given important information regarding proper oral care and education for preventing oral disease and keeping their service dog’s mouth healthy and pain free.

Service dogs work in a variety of areas as partners to owners who may have medical disabilities as well as working in public service providing important and unique services to military, police and search and rescue organizations. It is vital that these dogs are in top health and don’t have painful oral disease that not only is uncomfortable, but also could impact their ability to serve their owners.

Boomer Wisconsin Service Dog

Boomer demonstrates his skills & the important part his mouth plays in his job.

In Wisconsin, Dr. Dale Kressin works with police officer Eric and his partner Boomer. Boomer did a demonstration for an event and as you can see, his mouth needs to be in the best condition for him to perform his job. Boomer has had multiple teeth treated for fractures which have kept him pain free and in top condition.

Dr. Tony Woodward provided a number of exams at his office in Colorado and in addition to recommending the routine oral care owners should talk with their regular veterinarians about, he was also able to teach them how to provide preventative care at home and things to watch for that could be their service dog may need to be seen at by a vet dentist.

TJ Police Service Dog Oral Health

TJ gets a high five for passing his oral health exam.

Dr. Woodward also had the pleasure of giving TJ, a Colorado Springs Police Dog a clean bill of oral health after his exam. TJ was the only service dog who passed his oral health exam with flying colors and thanks to excellent care by TJ’s partner, had no signs of dental disease.

Rugby Service Dog Oral Health Exam

Rugby gets his oral health exam.

A hearing dog named Rugby visited Dr. Brook Niemiec in San Diego. In addition to the exam, Dr. Niemiec used Orastrip test strips to test the level of dental disease in Rugby’s mouth. The strips are not a replacement for a dental exam, but measure the level of bacteria that can cause periodontal disease in the dog’s mouth. Rugby’s teeth looked good and also had a low level of bacteria on the orastrip test which gave his owners peace of mind.

Zoe Service Dog Oral Health Exam

Zoe is a hospice service dog.

This is Zoe, a service dog who provides pet therapy to hospice patients. Dr. Chris Visser provided Zoe’s free exam among others to a variety of service dogs in Arizona. Dr. Michael Peak also provided free exams to a number of Florida service dogs.

It’s really amazing the work these dogs are trained to provide and as veterinary dental specialists, we want to be sure their owners are aware of the importance of maintaining the dog’s oral and dental health.