How to Take Care of Dog Tooth Extraction—Hint: Leave It to the Professionals
A veterinary dentist explains the reasons for pulling dogs’ teeth, the importance of aftercare, and what to consider when choosing a specialist.
When our furry friends are hurting, we don't always know it, especially if their pain is due to a serious dental condition that requires a tooth extraction. Maybe you've seen your pup favor one side of his mouth while eating or playing. Otherwise, the warning signs for needing to get your dog's tooth pulled aren't as obvious.
Tony M. Woodward, DVM, AVDC, is a board-certified veterinary dentist and owner of Montana Pet Dentistry and Oral Surgery in Bozeman, Mont. He says pets seldom show symptoms of dental issues that even the most observant and caring pet parents would notice.
"Pain from dental disease comes on slowly and the pets just learn to deal with it. What option do they have? They keep eating and playing, but might act just a little older," he says. "In contrast, when dental problems are correctly identified and treated appropriately, owners commonly notice a rapid improvement in general demeanor … just acting happier."
4 Reasons Why Your Dog Might Need Their Teeth Pulled
1. Periodontal Disease
The primary reason veterinarians need to pull a dog's tooth is due to complications with periodontal disease, also known as gum disease. There are four stages of periodontal disease in dogs, and a case has to advance to stage three before tooth extraction is the recommended remedy. Woodward says this is because severe periodontal disease damages the supporting structures of the teeth. "Once enough bone and gum tissue has been destroyed, the tooth cannot heal, and extraction is the only possible treatment."
2. Broken Tooth
Another common need to have a dog's tooth pulled might be a fracture. VCA Hospitals indicates if a fractured tooth is healthy, it could still cause pain because of exposed nerves. However, broken tooth extraction may not be necessary. Quite often, a veterinary dentist will perform root canal therapy to correct the problem.
Only if a fractured tooth and surrounding gum tissue are unhealthy and unrepairable will extraction be considered because, as the VCA notes, "for the large canine and chewing teeth, the removal procedure involves oral surgery—comparable to removing impacted wisdom teeth in human patients." Ouch!
Woodward adds that the removal of teeth to help eliminate trauma is another reason for extraction. Known as traumatic occlusion, this condition might be caused by teeth hitting other teeth or digging into the gum tissues.
3. Unerupted Tooth
The Merck Veterinary Manual also recommends extraction for unerupted teeth, which are "teeth that remain under the gum line." This frequently occurs in brachycephalic breeds, (which means 'small headed') such as pug, Maltese, Pekingese, English bulldog, French bulldog, and Boston terrier.
RELATED: How Many Teeth Do Dogs Have?
4. Tooth Decay
If you're concerned about rotten dog teeth extraction, it's more likely that your pup has tooth decay. Fortunately, this problem only happens in 10 percent of dogs, and veterinarians are usually able to correct it by filling the cavity, just as our dentists do for us.
What Happens During a Rotten Tooth Extraction Surgery Procedure?
Woodward says many veterinarians in general practice do an excellent job treating basic dental problems, including extractions and treatment of periodontal disease. But make certain the clinic can meet your needs.
"Most extractions are performed after first providing a dental cleaning with dental X-rays. Without dental X-rays, you'll miss most of the painful problems in a pet's mouth. So a good question to ask before allowing someone to perform dental treatment on your pet is whether that clinic takes dental X-rays on every patient receiving a cleaning or having a tooth extracted," he says. "If the answer is no, you should go elsewhere. Quality dental treatment, including extractions, requires dental X-rays. You should make sure the clinic you're considering is familiar with taking and evaluating dental X-rays if you're going to trust them with caring for your pet."
The steps for a typical dog tooth extraction can be rather involved, but if you'd like an overview, this vet clinic provides good detail. Under no circumstances should you pull a dog's tooth at home yourself.
Dog Tooth Extraction Recovery Time and Aftercare
Recovery and aftercare should be relatively easy to handle. "There will be absorbable sutures in the dog's mouth that need to be protected. Soft food for 10–14 days, avoiding rough play, and limiting access to chew toys are usually all that's required," Woodward says. "Pain medication is generally given for a few days after the procedure, and occasionally antibiotics are dispensed."
Senior dogs, he points out, might require a little more attention post-operatively than younger dogs to make sure their food and water intake is adequate. Younger pets usually look normal a few hours after a dental procedure.
In order to prevent having to get another one of your dog's teeth pulled in the future, make sure to brush their teeth regularly, try giving them teeth cleaning toys to chew on (after their mouth is fully healed), and take your pup to the vet to get their teeth professionally cleaned several times a year.
Be Aware of These Dog Tooth Extraction Costs
While many people search for affordable dog tooth extraction, this isn't exactly a service that provides discounts. "Keep in mind that the additional surgery time required for an extraction involves the actual surgery itself, additional anesthesia time, medications, surgical equipment, suturing, and employee time for monitoring the patient, among other services," Woodward says.
To help you determine how much it costs to pull a dog's tooth and establish a budget, he provides this approximate breakout:
- The cleaning and X-rays, with anesthesia, bloodwork as indicated, IV fluids, and hospitalization for the day generally costs around $500–$900 at a good quality clinic in most parts of the country.
- Additional fees for tooth extractions are generally based on surgical time. It might cost as little as $40 for a small tooth in the front of the mouth to $350 for a large back tooth that requires placement of a bone graft material in the surgical site.
"When anesthesia is involved, that's not the time to look for the cheapest price," Woodward says.