A full mouth extraction may sound horrific, but in some instances, it’s the best solution to a host of distressing problems. If your vet has recommended your cat has all their teeth taken out, there’s probably a very good reason, and one certainly worth pondering before dismissing it as too extreme to contemplate.
Reasons for A Full Mouth Extraction
Before you start feeling guilty about neglecting your cat’s oral health, it’s worth bearing in mind that many conditions requiring full extraction have nothing to do with a hit and miss approach to flossing. Some of the most common reasons your vet may recommend full extraction include:
- Gingivitis: Humans aren’t the only creatures susceptible to gingivitis. Although relatively rare amongst young cats, gingivitis can become a real problem in aging cats, causing inflammation, smelly breath, and, depending on the circumstances, mild to moderate pain. If the problem is caught early enough, a good routine involving brushing, foods marketed for dental health, and regular cleaning should be enough to waylay its development. However, if the gingivitis has been allowed to spread, extraction may be the only solution.
- Stomatitis: Stomatitis is a strange but relatively common condition in which cats develop an immune response to plague. Plague lives on the teeth, and even with the most vigorous of oral hygiene routines, it’s impossible to keep it completely at bay. Unlike gingivitis, which is more often than not a “silent disease”, stomatitis can cause the kind of distress you can be sure your cat will let you know about. Depending on the severity, stomatitis kitties can experience inflammation that spreads from the gum surrounding the affected tooth to the roof of the mouth and even down the throat. Gum tissues can become swollen, extremely painful, and emit a foul odor. Due to the severity of the pain, a cat may lose their appetite, and will often experience bloody saliva (in fact, one of the earliest and most easy to spot signs of the disease is blood stains around the jaw and wherever your cat may have been drooling). A full mouth extraction will effectively remove the problem (and trust us, it’s a problem – even the most cheery, energetic cat can be reduced to a sad-eyed, lethargic ball of misery under its effects) at its root; once the teeth have been removed, the mouth will heal in no time, leaving your kitty feeling free of pain and back to their usual perky selves. Although certain conditions (herpes, calicivirus, and FIV being just a few) can contribute to stomatitis, even otherwise healthy cats are at risk.
Diagnosing Gingivitis/ Stomatitis
If your vet suspects your cat may be suffering from gingivitis or stomatitis, they’ll start by completing a full and thorough inspection of the mouth. As some, slightly more sinister, conditions share the same symptoms as both diseases, they may recommend a biopsy or blood test to rule out any underlying infections or illnesses.
Before resorting to a full-scale extraction, you vet may recommend you try some at-home dental care. If this is the case, don’t beat yourself up if the task proves too much to handle. Even cats with perfectly healthy, pain- free mouths can bring down the house if you try and introduce them to a toothbrush: factor in all the pain and discomfort stomatitis naturally brings to the table, and you’ll be lucky to get away with your life. If you can’t manage it at your home, your vet may recommend a series of clinical treatments, usually revolving around professional cleaning, antibiotics, steroids or other immunosuppressive drugs.
However, while these treatments can help control the symptoms of stomatitis, they’ll do little to address its root cause. If your cat has an auto-immune reaction to plague, it’ll only take one missed brush, or one missed pill, for all the symptoms to return in their unholy glory. If you want to treat the problem once and for all, the only real solution is a full mouth extraction: by removing the teeth, you’ll remove the plague, effectively putting a full stop to the condition forever.
The Ultimate Solution
Unless you want to dedicate your life to constant vet visits, costly medication, and never-ending brushing, extraction, as Veterinary Practice News notes, is very much worth considering. When it comes to stomatitis, the teeth are the enemy- and removal is the only true solution. While some cats may only need their rear molars removed, others may need the full works. The process itself will vary: depending on your cat’s age, health, and general condition, your vet may either recommend a full extraction in one visit, or implement the procedure over the course of several appointments. As feline teeth are fragile little things that can easily break or splinter, your vet will usually take x-rays both before and after surgery to decide on the best approach, and to confirm that the full tooth and root have been removed.
If your vet recommends a full extraction, you’ll probably be struck by a whole host of worries. Fortunately, most are unfounded. If you’re concerned your cat won’t be able to enjoy their usual food, don’t be. After their mouth has healed, they’ll be able to return to their normal diet without problem, and will even be able to enjoy kibble once their gums have returned to their full strength. Full extraction can be costly, and certainly one you’ll need to have a little set by for. However, once it’s done, it’s done: without teeth, your cat will be able to resume their normal habits and routine without pain. You, meanwhile, will be free of all those costly vet visits and expensive medication bills, both of which would otherwise run on for the rest of your cat’s life. Most importantly, you’ll be free of the distress of seeing your little friend in distress, and that, as any pet parent knows, is priceless.