To Extract or Not to Extract

Your veterinarian has diagnosed your dog with a fractured tooth! Now what should we do? One option is extraction. The other option is root canal therapy. "Wait and See" or monitoring are NOT options and neither is antibiotic treatment.

How do we choose which option is best? Certain teeth such as canines, maxillary fourth premolars and mandibular first molars are considered strategic teeth. They are large, functionally important teeth. These teeth can be quite difficult to extract and creates a large wound with which your veterinarian will need to deal. Regardless of the option you, as the pet owner, chooses, a thorough, anesthetized exam by a qualified veterinarian is necessary to determine the best treatment plan for your pet. See the pros and cons for each option below.

       
 

Tooth Extraction

 
  Pros
  • Less difficult
  • Requires far less equipment
  • It is a final solution
  • Less expensive in many (but not all) cases
  • Once the wound has healed, there is no need for follow-up
Cons
  • Loss of form and function of the tooth
  • Creates a wound that has to heal and is at risk of failing to heal
  • More surgical trauma and more post-operative pain
  • The procedure can be awfully simple or simply awful
  • In cats, extraction of lower canines will often lead to a painful condition called lip entrapment. (see photos below)
 
       

 

       
 

Root Canal Therapy

 
  Pros
  • No wound to heal, so immediate return to normal activity
  • Preserves normal form and function of the tooth
  • Far less, if any, post-operative pain
Cons
  • Very few veterinarians have acquired the extra training to allow them to perform this procedure
  • Requires a lot of specialized equipment and is, therefore, more expensive
  • The procedure takes longer than most extractions
 
  Cat Root Canal X-ray of Cat's Tooth Post Root Canal  
  Dog Root Canal X-ray of Dog's Tooth Post Root Canal