Cat Tooth Extractions: What to Expect

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Whether due to gum disease, trauma or some other reason, many cats may need one or more teeth removed during their lifetime, requiring the need for feline dental surgery. If you are wondering what causes the need for cat teeth removal, cat tooth abscesses, or what you can expect during cat tooth extraction recovery - then read on below.


When Is Cat Tooth Extraction Is Necessary?

Periodontal disease (or gum disease) is a common cause of tooth loss in cats which includes gingivitis and periodontitis. This is caused by a buildup of plaque and tartar between the cats teeth and gums. It can cause infection and inflammation in the gums, erosion of the bone surrounding the tooth and weakening of the periodontal ligament that holds the tooth in place. Rotten, loose or wiggly teeth are painful and must be extracted. If a cat’s tooth becomes infected by dental disease an abscess can form in the gum. These are painful and filled with pus which can make eating and daily grooming for your cat difficult. 

Another situation that would call for cat tooth extraction is a broken tooth. Cat teeth can break from trauma or as a result of feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions (FORLs) or tooth resorption, which is the erosion of dentin (the hard tissue below the enamel) in a tooth that becomes irreparably destroyed. FORLs cause cavities to develop that weaken a cat's teeth and causes them considerable pain. If this is the case for your feline, then extraction is the only treatment available for FORLs. The type of treatment (extraction vs crown amputation) varies based on the appearance of dental xrays taken by your vet.

Feline stomatitis is a less common but extremely  painful condition of the mouth characterised by severe inflammation of the gums surrounding the teeth. The gums can appear bright red and bleed easily.The condition isn't well understood, but the cats immune system seems to play a role with a disproportionate response to the plaque bacteria. Treatment often involves a combination of medications and dental care. In advanced cases tooth extraction (sometimes whole mouth extractions) are required. Fortunately, most cats tolerate whole mouth extraction well and feel much better after cat dental surgery. 

Ginger cat about to have cat dental surgery

Cat Tooth Extractions: Recovery Expectations

Most cats recover quickly from a tooth extraction and generally there is no need to worry after a straightforward procedure. Your cat will probably be able to go home the same day as the procedure. However, recovery depends on your cat's overall health, how their pain is managed after the tooth removal and how they handle anaesthesia. For single extractions, recovery typically takes about one week or less. For cats that undergo multiple tooth extractions and/or have other health conditions, recovery can take a couple of weeks.

During the recovery period, the gum heals over the tooth extraction site. There are often dissolvable stitches in place that hold the gums together until they heal; these will fall out on their own.

You can help your kitty recover by feeding them canned food (this can prevent irritation to the surgery site) and by making sure they finish all pain medicine and antibiotics as prescribed. Pet parents are often surprised at how fast their feline friends recover after cat tooth extraction.

How to Reduce the Need for a Cat Tooth Extraction

If your cat has periodontal disease, brushing their teeth and making sure they have an annual dental cleaning can help prevent tooth loss. 

If your cat's tooth is broken and you don't want it removed, ask your vet about the possibility of having a root canal done in order to save the tooth. Most vets in general practice do not perform this advanced procedure so ask for a referral to a veterinary dentist.

In conditions of feline stomatitis or tooth resorption, early intervention and a strong partnership with your vet can sometimes prevent the need for a cat tooth extraction — but any conditions that are painful should be treated immediately.

The Role of Nutrition is Key

Along with brushing and annual dental check ups, nutrition can also help improve your cats dental health and may reduce the chance of high cost tooth extraction and dental surgery. Hill's Prescription Diet t/d, and Hill’s Science Diet Oral Care help reduce plaque and tartar build-up with clinically proven kibble technology. The interlocking fibre technology works like a toothbrush, cleaning teeth with every bite to promote healthy gums and teeth.

If your cat suffers from stomatitis, your vet may recommend trying to feed them a limited ingredient food, to rule out the possibility of ingredient sensitivity (which is rare among cats). If your cat suffers from dental problems, ask your vet for nutritional recommendations.

Caring for a Toothless Cat

If your cat requires a full mouth tooth extraction it is important to know that your cat can still lead a happy and healthy life including the ability to be able to eat properly. Despite common misconceptions, cats without teeth can even still eat dry kibble.

It's understandable to feel nervous about your beloved cat getting dental surgery, but rest assured that most cats handle tooth extraction extremely well. Your kitty will feel much better without an achy tooth.


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