Chico is an approximately 15 year old Chihuahua mix that was adopted from a shelter in Alabama by Dr. Fisher and her husband in December of 2006. At the time he had already lost half of his teeth due to advanced periodontal (dental) disease that had gone untreated. He also had a large oronasal fistula (opening between his mouth and nasal cavity) due to the loss of his upper canine. The root of the upper canine tooth often goes into the nasal cavity. When the tooth becomes affected by periodontal disease, without treatment, it will become loose and fall out leaving a large defect. Dental disease can also affect the rest of the animal including heart, lungs and kidney health.
After adoption the oronasal fistula was repaired and numerous teeth were extracted. All his teeth showed socket bone loss- the bone that holds the teeth in place. Even with treatment over time the majority of his teeth progressed to a point where they no longer were able to be saved. They were causing him pain and discomfort. As a result the rest of his teeth were extracted. He is now much more comfortable. He is happy, healthy and eats most things without any problem.
Dogs and cats almost never show outward signs of dental disease or pain. Dental pain is a chronic type of pain that becomes “normal” for that pet. This does not mean they do not feel pain. We often hear from owners that a pet acts different after dental extractions/treatments are performed- they act more puppy like, play more with their toys or interact more with the family. A dog or cat does not need teeth to be happy. They need a mouth free of pain and disease.
There are a lot of things that can be done to prevent a dog from having to loose teeth. This involves home care from the owner and regular professional check-up and dental care. Smaller dogs and pure-bred cats often have more significant and earlier problems. Often times they can be helped by having early treatments that may include extractions of less important teeth to decrease crowding and help the more important or significant teeth.