Maintaining a cat’s dental health is extremely important and cats are susceptible to all of the same dental problems as dogs. There are other feline specific dental diseases that cat owners should be aware of including feline stomatitis and feline tooth resporption. In addition to home dental care, it is important for cats to have regular veterinary dental cleanings and exams to assure that their teeth and mouth remain healthy and without disease. Board certified vet dentists can provide the highest level of dental care for cats.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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:
A pet dental cleaning that doesn’t require anesthesia – it’s a new fad and may sound like a great solution for pet owners who are nervous about their pet going under anesthesia, plus it seems like a cheaper option. But, before a pet owner chooses an anesthesia free cleaning, they might want to consider that taking your dog to have their teeth cleaned by a someone who is not a veterinarian, would be like us having our teeth cleaned by someone who isn’t a dentist.
A complete dog or cat dental cleaning is a multi-step process including, oral exam, veterinary dental x-rays, cleaning below the gum line, scaling plaque from teeth and identifying potential painful problems in your pet’s mouth. Imagine how afraid and upset you might be if you were restrained while someone did all of this to you and you had no idea what was going on and couldn’t speak up if it hurt. Then, consider that the necessary cleaning under the gum line where pet periodontal disease begins can’t be accomplished with an anesthesia free cleaning. The anesthesia free cleanings also leave a very rough surface on a pet’s tooth which actually promotes bacteria growth and future dental disease.
Anesthesia free pet dentistry is not really dentistry at all. No medical benefits are provided to the pet and periodontal disease progresses in the dog or cat’s mouth at the same pace it normally does. In addition, it wastes the clients’ money so they cannot afford to have a proper dental procedure done. The biggest issue, however, is that it gives the client a false sense of security that their pet has had proper dental care. However, when dental disease or painful conditions are properly identified during a veterinary dental cleaning, there are a number of treatments a veterinary dentist can employ to correct them early on before causing more extensive and expensive damage.
It’s understandable that people are afraid to put their put under anesthesia, but the very minimal risk associated with pet anesthesia, are miniscule when compared with the risks of untreated periodontal disease and pain in your pet’s mouth. Appropriately administered general pet anesthesia is extremely low risk for the pet patient, as a result of a combination of pre-anesthetic tests (including blood tests), use of modern anesthetic agents, local anesthetic blocks (which minimizes the depth of general anesthesia required), plus modern anesthetic monitoring equipment. Many pets are awake and standing within 15-20 minutes of completion of the procedure and go home the same day.
Feline stomatitis is severe inflammation or ulceration in the cat’s mouth, and is debilitating for affected cats. Signs of feline stomatitis include very bad breath, difficulty eating (or not eating at all) and drooling. Some cats will have large areas of their oral cavity covered with painful, raw areas.
If you see signs of feline stomatitis, you should contact a veterinary dentist as soon as possible. Although you may find a number of medical solutions on the internet for feline stomatitis, unfortunately there have not been any encouraging results for non-surgical treatments. The best treatment for feline stomatitis is extraction of all of the cat’s teeth. While this may sound extreme, cats with feline stomatitis are in a great deal of pain. After extraction, cats are pain free, much happier and often eat a meal shortly after waking up from surgery.