Thomas - Cat Root Canals - AZ Vet Dentists

Thomas the Cat Finds a Home and Dentist

Thomas - Cat Root Canals - AZ Vet DentistsThomas was a stray cat who found a wonderful owner who gave him a home and even found him a cat dentist. It’s not only a great story about a kind person who gave a cat a home, but an example of the difference having a pain free mouth makes for animals.

“Thomas has quite a story. He is a yellow shorthair, probably about 6 years old. He wandered the Bashas’ parking lot at Scottsdale Road and Grayhawk for over five years. He made a lot of friends, mainly begging food from Bashas’ shoppers. He slept in the bushes and managed to hide from coyotes, bobcats, owls and hawks. He had several kind-hearted women who fed him every night, rain and shine for over five years. However, the property managers were very unhappy that people were feeding stray cats on the property, and two of the businesses posted signs telling people not to feed the cats.

So, I figured it was time to catch Thomas and give him a forever home. I took a cage out for a week and got him used to coming and going into it. Then, one night he went in after tuna fish, and I closed the door. He wasn’t happy, but didn’t bite or scratch.

Cat After Root CanalI took him to my vet who found out he had some broken teeth and recommended Dr. Visser at Arizona Veterinary Dental Specialists. I took him in and Dr. Visser recommended root canal therapy to fix the teeth as opposed to removing them.  I don’t know how someone can do a root canal on a tooth as small as a cat’s, but thanks to Dr. Visser, Thomas still has three of his four canines. He also had two infected teeth, which required extraction and the rest of his teeth got a good cleaning.

At the time of his root canal recheck he’s gained weight and is doing really well. The first week he slept most of the time but now, he is interested in cuddling and drooling all over my arms. He is adjusting well to being inside, with no yowling or crying and he sleeps through the night. Thomas is a beautiful cat with a great personality. And now he will have a pain free, beautiful smile! He is one lucky cat!”

Below are images of Thomas’s teeth prior to treatment and a veterinary dental radiograph showing the root canal.

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: