Oral Surgery & Root Canals
Oral Surgery & Root Canals
1) Root canals in pets?
A common reaction is “Are you kidding?” but the fact is that certain teeth are far more important to save because of their size & function (upper and lower canines, 4th upper premolars and 1st lower molar s) than other teeth and we are often put in the position of deciding whether an extraction or a root canal should be performed. We have been offering and regularly performing root canals in pets since 1991. We certainly would agree that no pet has to have a root canal over an extraction but for many pets it does make sense. We will gladly discuss the pros and cons with you and help you decide which option is best for your pet.
2) How would I know if my pet needs a root canal?
Any chipped tooth or discolored tooth could have a root canal (endodontic) problem. They are usually diagnosed on physical exam, after the heavy tartar is removed by scaling or when an abscess is seen at the tip or apex of the tooth on the X-ray image.
3) Will my pet show signs of pain?
Very rarely will a pet owner know that their pet is in pain. Although pet’s teeth are very similar to humans including innervation, blood supply, etc., dogs are programmed not to show pain based on their evolution where showing pain would cause them to be “shunned” from the pack. Chewing on the opposite side of the mouth, not playing with toys or avoiding cold water would be signs that an advanced problem exists. Apical abscesses are quite painful in people so they must be in pets as well.
4) Why would I choose a root canal instead of just having the tooth extracted?
A root canal causes less trauma and is less painful than an extraction. We only consider root canals for the more important teeth in the mouth. The function of the tooth is preserved with a root canal which is a benefit to the pet. Canine teeth and the large molars are the only teeth we typically perform root canals on.
5) How does a tooth become non-vital?
Trauma is the usual cause of a non vital or “dead” tooth. Chewing on hard objects (bones, hard toys, rocks, etc, even ice!) can all cause trauma to teeth requiring a root canal. You can prevent this by limiting the chew toys that you provide your pet. A good “rule of thumb” is that if the chew object hurts when tapped against your shin or kneecap then it is hard enough to chip your pet’s teeth and not be given as a treat. Rawhide & Kong toys (r) are better choices and far more effective at preventing plaque & tartar.
6) Are all teeth root canal candidates?
No, there are many smaller teeth in dogs and many smaller teeth in cats that are just too small and not “important enough” to justify the cost and additional anesthesia that is necessary. The typical root canal candidates are the upper and lower canine teeth (fangs) in cats and the canines, upper large premolars and lower premolars in dogs.
7) Do we need to put a crown on? How about a bridge?
Pet’s teeth do not need bridges if a tooth is extracted unlike people. Each tooth has its own socket so it will not move. Crowning is done rarely and only by a board certified veterinary dentist (available by referral). The uncrowned root canal tooth is more brittle and therefore is more susceptible to breakage but by avoiding hard chew objects they usually last for the pet’s lifetime.
For more detail on root canals for pets visit the AVDC (American Veterinary Dental College) website