If your cat is experiencing tooth pain, your vet may recommend a tooth extraction. Today, our Rochester vets discuss cat tooth extractions and what you can expect.
Cat Dental Extractions
A cat tooth extraction is when a veterinarian surgically removes a cat's tooth to relieve pain and prevent further dental problems. Extractions can go all the way down to the roots, or they can stop at the dental crown (the part of the tooth which is visible above the gums).
Why a Tooth Extraction is Necessary
When a tooth is damaged beyond repair, it is important to remove the tooth to prevent infection and pain caused by the dead tooth. In most situations, this decay is caused by periodontal (gum) disease.
Gum disease is caused by a build-up of plaque on your cat's teeth that eventually hardens into a substance called calculus or tartar. When not removed, the hardened tartar will cause pockets of infection between the gum line and the teeth, leading to gum erosion and tooth decay. You can help prevent gum disease with at-home dental care and regularly scheduled professional dental appointments.
Cats are also susceptible to a condition called feline tooth resorption. Feline tooth resorption is when painful erosions develop on a cat's tooth or teeth and begin breaking down the structures that form the tooth. Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent feline tooth resorption and the teeth experiencing resorption almost always need to be extracted.
After the Tooth Extraction
Teeth are held into our mouths by roots - in cats as many as 3 roots can be holding an individual tooth. To properly fully extract a tooth, all roots must be removed.
During your cat's dental surgery, they will be under the effects of anesthesia. Our veterinarians practice stringent surgical protocols when operating on our patients.
To check the health of your cat’s roots, the vet may take an X-ray or a CT scan. Large teeth, that is those with multiple roots, are split using a high-speed dental drill so that each fragment of the tooth has only one root attached to it. Smaller teeth that have one root can be completely removed without this extra step.
Potential Cat Tooth Extraction Complications
Veterinary tooth extraction complications are uncommon. Complications that do occur usually fall into one of a few categories: the remnants of removed teeth, unhealed dental cavities, and jaw bone damage are all potential areas of complication that can arise during a cat tooth extraction.
Recovery After a Cat Tooth Extraction
After a tooth extraction surgery, it is normal for your cat to feel some sensitivity for anywhere from 1 - 2 weeks. For more complex procedures, pain relief medication may be prescribed by your vet for a few days following the surgery.
Cats typically don't "chew" their food the same way humans do. Their teeth are mainly for ripping apart pieces of meat and when it comes to kibble it's not unusual for them to swallow whole pieces. So while you don't need to worry about your cat eating in the long run, you should still soften their kibble with warm water or switch to canned, wet food for a few days after surgery as their mouth will be sore.
Complications are rare after veterinary dental surgery, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't monitor your kitty's mouth. Keep an eye out for any signs of excess bleeding, swelling, or infection. Infection may be characterized by redness, pus, or a bad odor.
Your vet will likely want to schedule a follow-up appointment with you to ensure everything is healing as it should. Talk to your vet about any other special care requirements your cat may need.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.