Tooth root crises, extractions galore and pet owner denial
Were you ever faced with the sad reality of multiple extractions for your pet’s less-than-perfect teeth? I deal in this kind of dental crisis on a weekly basis. And nine out of ten times the conversation goes the same way:
“But how is she going to eat?”
Newsflash: If she’s eating “just fine” now, it’s probably because she’s not using her teeth anyway. I mean, have you ever really looked in there?
To be fair, many “bad” teeth don’t really look all that horrible when they’re sitting placidly in the mouth. Even when they’re surrounded by red gums and smocked in heavy tartar, it’s hard to predict what’s happening underneath. In many cases, it’s only when the animal is anesthetized and each tooth is individually examined and X-rayed that you can truly tell what’s going on.
In these cases, pet owner denial is absolutely understandable: “But they look just fine. How bad can they really be?” Hmmm...really bad. As in: useless, painful sources of infection. At this point, they really don’t function as teeth at all. And they never will.
If they were in YOUR mouth you’d have no problems begging your dentist to have them removed––no questions asked, no X-ray evidence needed, just get those suckers out...NOW!
But here’s where the miracle of animal resistance to severe pain comes in: Pets with severely compromised teeth either don’t suffer like we do or they don’t display pain the way we do. Based on pain studies in human babies and animals, the latter option is more than likely the case when it comes to oral pain in pets. Which means they DO suffer...and we don’t know it.
Still, it’s hard for many of my clients to admit that this is the case. That’s especially true when faced with the mother of all dental procedures: the full mouth extraction.
Except for a limb amputation, perhaps, this procedure is the one most pet owners most tend to balk at. Never mind that these teeth are mere placeholders for open sores. Forget the evidence of abscessation and the possibility of bone infection at every tooth root. It’s the fact of extracting these hunks of futility that freaks my owners out.
Then there’s the obvious to overcome: "You want me to pay how much to remove each tooth? Seriously? If they’re as bad as you say they are how hard can it be?"
Well...think of it this way: I can “pull” a tooth or I can “extract” it. If you want me to “pull” it....
- don’t expect that I’ll be treating the ravaged bone below,
- don't expect me to use a high-speed drill (and other pricey equipment) designed specifically for small carnivores,
- don't expect me to apply multiple local, pain-relieving injections along with other forms of pain control,
- don’t expect I’ll be making sure I don’t leave behind pieces of broken tooth,
- don’t expect I’ll be carefully cutting the gumline beforehand and sewing the flaps back afterwards
- don’t expect me to take X-rays ahead of time to make sure the tooth needs to come out and X-rays afterwards to ensure I’ve done a good job
- don’t expect a low complication rate,
- and don’t expect a comfortable mouth––maybe not for many weeks.
“Pulling” is not surgery. “Extracting” is. And it’s HARD work. In fact, it’s harder than most other surgeries I perform. Yet no other procedure earns me as little, hour per hour, than dental extractions. I know; I’ve done the math. It doesn’t ever earn me flowers or extra thank yous or even an impressed lift of the eyebrows. Not like removing bladder stones or sewing up a laceration. ‘Cause it’s just “pulling teeth.”
Enough of the rant. Now you know. And next time your veterinarian gives you the dental lecture maybe you’ll think on mine. But then, I’m, probably preaching to the choir...again.