Why Extraction? Expert Vet Explains Pet Dentistry | Ferntree Gully Vet Hospital - Knoxfield, Boronia, Upwey, Scoresby, Wantirna

Pet Dental Care - Why Extractions?

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Extraction of teeth in dogs and cats may sound a very drastic measure but a pet with severe dental disease has usually lost a significant amount of supporting bone and soft tissue alongside and under the roots of the tooth. Extraction is often the only way we can restore oral health and prevent the disease spreading to neighbouring teeth. Even pets with multiple extractions or missing teeth have no trouble chewing hard foods. It is much better than chewing with a rotten painful tooth. If the tooth is left there it is effectively sitting on top of a bed of infection or pus!

Rotten mouth

Pet Versus Human Dental Disease

Dental disease in pets is generally quite different to human dental disease. Our mouths are quite acidic and our teeth are prone to holes or cavities. Whereas pet's mouths are quite alkaline and are more prone to bacterial infections and subsequent periodontal disease(gum disease). Periodontal disease is a progressive loss of the supporting structure of the teeth. It starts in the same way as us ie. plaque and causes gingivitis. When it has progressed to the gum(gingiva) tooth margin, the bacteria can then start destroying the supporting structure of the teeth. The supporting structure is the periodontal ligament and underlying bone which attach to the roots of the teeth. Small pockets form between the roots and the bone and these can progress to deep pockets. This leads to increasing loss of support for the tooth.

Grade 3 & 4 Dental Disease

Grade 3 periodontal disease is when there is more than 25% of bone support lost and Grade 4 is when there is more than 50% of support lost. Grade 1 & 2 periodontal disease is reversible, most of Grade 3's and all of Grade 4's are irreversible. Irreversible means that you cannot stop the tooth from being lost. Retaining that tooth will lead to unnecessary pain, infection and possible abscess formation. This can also potentially have damaging effects on the kidneys, liver and the heart.

Preventive Programs

It is a much better idea to have a preventive program in place so that your pet's teeth do not progress to Grade 3 or 4. In many cases dental homecare such as regular bones or oral care diets do a wonderful job of stopping plaque buildup. If your pet has Grade 1 or 2 dental disease and a homecare plan is not a realistic option or they are not responding to one, then the best option is to have the teeth cleaned and polished under a general anaesthetic so that there is no further progression. Some of the preventive plans work best when the teeth have been cleaned and you are starting from a clean base.

Individual variation 

Some pets are unfortunately like "plaque magnets" ie they are prone to plaque sticking to their teeth and gums. Despite the best preventive measures, these pets do require(like some of us) a clean and scale every 6 to 12 months. Remember 12 months in our lifetime often is at least 5 to 7 years in our pet's life.

Grading the Teeth and Gums

Some pets may have a lot of plaque and tartar present yet when cleaned have few or minor pockets whereas others may have a lot less tartar yet have very deep pockets present which may require extraction of the teeth. It is only possible to properly grade the teeth with a dental probe whilst your pet is under a general anaesthetic.



This pet has a very rotten looking mouth but luckily for him, once the tartar was cleaned off and the gums and teeth properly checked for pockets, there was no need for extractions.



Cats are different!

As described above our dental disease is often "cavities" which is very different to our pet's "loss of tooth support. One exception is cats where they are prone to a type of cavity, called ”neck lesions” or Feline Odontoclastic(Tooth) Resorption, which occur at the gum line. They can be quite painful and studies have shown they occur in up to 50% of cats over 5 years of age. Unfortunately despite the very best of materials, many attempts have been tried to restore these teeth with very poor results. Extraction is the recommended treatment.

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