Vail Pets: A few reasons to pull your pet’s teeth |

Vail Pets: A few reasons to pull your pet’s teeth

Stephen Sheldon
Pet Talk
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado –We’re talking about extractions here – not about trying to get your Vail Valley pets to tell you about their day at school. Pulling teeth is a very common occurrence in animal hospitals.

There are many reasons your pet might need a tooth pulled. Baby teeth (called deciduous teeth) that haven’t fallen out are one reason. Another common reason is a fractured or broken tooth. Other reasons are severely decayed or eroded teeth, abscessed teeth, deformed teeth, or even teeth that cause eye problems.

Let’s start with baby teeth. They should fall out when the adult ones come in. If they do not and remain firmly attached, they need to be pulled. If left in place they will overcrowd the adult teeth and cause tartar to accumulate at a very fast pace. Baby teeth are usually pulled during a spay or neuter surgery as anesthesia is required, If you are going to breed your dog have it done as a separate procedure by six months of age.

Broken teeth are one of the most common dental problems. The canine, or fang, is the tooth dogs and cats break most often. The next most common in dogs is the upper 4th pre-molar, or carnassial tooth.

If the pulp cavity, where the blood supply and nerves are, is not exposed, you can leave a broken tooth alone and watch it as long as a doctor determines it is not a risk. If the pulp cavity is exposed, the tooth will eventually get infected. Signs of infection or the tooth dying are a change in color, swelling in the jaw or area surrounding the tooth, or a pus-like discharge.

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If the tooth is broken there are three options. The first is to do nothing and watch the tooth for signs of infection. The second would be to pull it and the third is to have a root canal, or endodontic therapy, performed on the tooth. Most likely you will have to go to a veterinary dentist to get a root canal done. Very few general practitioners do them. I did one once with the help of my dentist friend on a wild African cat called a serval.

Pulling a broken adult tooth becomes a full, surgical extraction. Gone are the days of hammer and chisel extractions you see on all those retro posters in your dentists’ office. A surgical extraction means elevating the gums with a periosteal elevator, drilling away the bony part of the socket, sectioning multi-root teeth and then extracting each root tip.

Pet roots are big, too. The canine tooth root is twice as long as the crown, or visible part of the tooth. It’s rough and tumble surgery and I love it. The patients go home with plenty of pain medication and antibiotics.

The bottom line is if your pet has a broken tooth, go see your veterinarian immediately. This is especially important if you want to try to save the tooth, even if it is just to put under your pet’s pillow.

Stephen Sheldon, DVM, practices at Gypsum Animal Hospital. He has not seen a Serval again as a patient!

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