Why do veterinarians extract so many teeth?
In veterinary medicine, dental extractions are performed to relieve pain/infection from a broken tooth or to resolve infections from advanced periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease is disease of the tissues around the tooth–the gums and bone.
For purposes of this discussion, advanced periodontal disease refers to infection that has degraded the bone around the tooth.
The black area around the root of this tooth is boney decay caused by bacteria that has constantly attacked the tissues around the tooth. Oftentimes, this kind of disease is not identified until the patient is anesthetized and proper dental x-rays are obtained.
This decay must be treated in order to prevent the constant barrage of bacteria into the bloodstream and to prevent the same boney damage to the neighboring teeth.
In a human patient, this disease or “pocket” may be managed or even resolved by a dentist, periodontist, and hygienist. This treatment would oftentimes require quarterly visits to the dentist for root planing, deep scaling, and other procedures. The human patient would also floss, brush, and use prescription rinses multiple times per day.
Quarterly visits to the veterinarian combined with routine homecare several times per day is just not a reasonable expectation with most of our veterinary patients. Therefore, surgical extractions are performed quite often on veterinary patients.
At the last veterinary dentistry meeting I attended, the rule of thumb taught by the board-certified veterinary dentist was to pursue extraction when there is 50% bone loss. This is not a standard rule in human dentistry since follow up care can be much more readily completed.
With our veterinary patients, most owners have absolutely zero interest in performing frequent home dental care and pursuing frequent anesthesia and dental scalings. When a tooth has 50% bone loss the likelihood of curing that tooth is small; therefore, a surgical dental extraction is the most reasonable course of action.
Have questions about your pet’s teeth? Call our San Antonio Veterinary Hospital at 210-654-7117, so that we can answer any questions you might have.