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10 Answers to Common Questions About Advanced Dental Procedures

Mar 04, 2016


Author: Colleen Fox, DVM, Practice Limited to Dentistry – Dentist at The COVE

It’s not just about bad breath!

Most veterinary clinics today offer basic dental services such as cleaning and extractions and often promote these services as part of National Pet Dental Health Month in February each year. At The COVE, we like to think every day is a good day to talk about dental health!

Professional cleaning is vital to the oral health of dogs and cats, especially as they age. However, regular cleaning may not address issues occurring below the gumline or over time due to other issues affecting the mouth of your pet. Furthermore, extraction of certain teeth can cause additional problems and may in effect be treating the symptoms and not the cause of dental disease.

Here are ten answers to common questions about advanced veterinary dental procedures we offer.

  1. Can’t my pet receive an extraction instead of a root canal? My dog has plenty of teeth. 
    Actually, it’s quite the opposite. Most of a domestic dog’s chewing is done with 16 premolars. Losing just one may cause a dog to overcompensate by chewing primarily on the other side, which can lead to both the overwork of teeth on one side and increased plaque growth and risk of infection on the other side.
  2. What about canine teeth? Domestic dogs don’t need their canine teeth for chewing, right?
    That may be true; however, ⅔ of the canine tooth is below the gumline and is very firmly rooted in the mandible (jaw bone). Extracting a canine tooth significantly weakens the mandible and can lead to a fracture.
  3. Speaking of fractures, that sounds serious. Will it be obvious if my dog or cat has a fractured tooth?
    No. Fractures can happen any number of ways, especially to active dogs. They are quite common and usually can’t be detected without radiographs taken by trained staff.
  4. What treatments are available for a fractured tooth?
    Fractures that expose the pulp chamber (the inside of the tooth that contains the nerves and blood supply) are a source or pain and infection and need to be treated with a root canal or extraction. A fracture that is less deep and affects only the enamel layer may be treated with a sealant, but will need close monitoring with dental x-rays to be sure that it stays healthy.
  5. After a root canal, will my dog need a crown?
    Crowns are most commonly used for working dogs that need to maintain strong gripping and tearing teeth, and for aesthetic purposes. Generally we do not recommend a crown due to additional cost and the requirement for additional procedures under general anesthesia. To protect the exposed tooth, we place a composite restoration at the time of the root canal instead of having a metal crown created at an outside lab and then fitted under a second anesthesia. 
  6. When would my pet need braces?
    We use orthodontic devices and other treatments to correct malocclusions in dogs and cats. A malocclusion is a misalignment in the upper and lower teeth. Malocclusions can cause teeth to impact the gums and soft palate, and significantly increase the risk of periodontal disease and infection.
  7. Does a veterinary dentist take care of my pet’s tongue, throat, or palate?
    Veterinary dentistry includes diagnosis and treatment of disorders affecting the entire oral cavity of the animal, including the tongue, throat, gums, and palate.
  8. Let’s talk about bad breath. Why is it so bad? I have my pet’s teeth cleaned annually.
    Annual cleaning is excellent to remove plaque and calculus above the gum line. However, buildup of these materials causes gingivitis, the most common cause of dental disease in pets. Bad breath is a typical symptom of gingivitis, and may be the only apparent symptom, especially if your pet’s teeth are regularly cleaned.
  9. Why is it important to treat gingivitis and periodontal disease?
    Periodontal disease is an infection caused by bacteria on the teeth and surrounding tissues. Left untreated, the bone supporting the teeth is destroyed and the teeth can fall out. With enough bone loss, the jaw becomes weak and more likely to break. The bacterial toxins can even enter the bloodstream, cause disease in other organ systems, and threaten your pet’s overall health and longevity.
  10. Can we just use antibiotics for infected gums?
    No. By the time periodontal disease is typically noted, there has been significant bone and tissue destruction, and often deep pockets have formed around the teeth. These pockets allow food and other debris to become trapped, thus worsening the periodontal disease. Without fixing these pockets with either extraction of the tooth or advanced periodontal surgery, the periodontal disease will continue despite antibiotic use. Furthermore, bacteria rapidly develop resistance so long term use of antibiotics will quickly become ineffective.

To learn more about the different advanced treatment options The COVE offers, please visit our Dentistry page. We accept patients via referrals from your family veterinarian. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please call us at 757.935.9111.

For more information on dental health, visit our Facebook Page. We’ve posted lots of great tips and information to help you learn more about your furry friend’s teeth. While you’re there, don’t forget to ‘Like’ our Page to stay connected! 

Category: Pet Health Tips