Species: Cat Breed: Domestic Feline Shor Age: 11-15 years
My cat recently underwent a procedure to remove her broken, upper right canine. It was broken below the pulp line. Unfortunately, her lower right canine now contacts her upper gum line along the outside edge, in the absence of the upper canine. A small lesion has formed on the upper gum at the point of contact with the lower canine. Of course, I will take her back to the vet that did the surgery, So, my question is not about whether to ignore the issue. I certainly won't ignore the situation.
Instead, my question is regarding my OPTIONS at that point. Will this lesion resolve on its own (ie: will a natural callous form)? If not, should the lower canine also be removed? Or instead, can it be filed down to reduce or eliminate contact? If so, would the filing require a root canal, and in this situation, are root canals safe and effective in this case?
I want to go back to the vet armed with as much information as possible. I sorely regret the decision to extract the upper canine in the first place, as opposed to having done a root canal then. I don't want to make the same mistake twice, and I wish I'd gone to that initial appointment better prepared than I was. That is why I'm asking your opinion on potential options now. Thank you for your response.
Dr. Marie replied:
This is a really tough question to answer. I have seen this happen where when a tooth is removed the corresponding tooth causes trouble. Your vet may decide to monitor things for a while to see if perhaps things will settle. She may be perfectly ok and not need any further treatment.
In my practice, if this were my case and if things were not improving I would recommend one of two things:
1) Removal of the canine tooth
2) Referral to a veterinary dentist
The veterinary dentist can potentially do a procedure to shorten the tooth. However, is not easy. The pulp of a cat's canine tooth is very close to the end of the tooth. If the shortening of the tooth affects the pulp then either a root canal or something called pulp capping must be done. These are not procedures to take lightly and can also have complications.
It really does sound like the tooth needed to be removed. I know, in hindsight it is easy to say that we wish a root canal had been done rather than extraction, but root canals can have complications too. Also, in most cases, in my opinion, a root canal should be performed by a veterinary dentist as most general practicing veterinarians will not have the expertise to do this procedure.
Your vet really should give you the best advice on what needs to be done here. From what you've told me, I'd probably lean towards extracting the canine tooth if it continues to be a problem. But, if you have access to a veterinary dentist then it is possible that a root canal would be a good option as well.
Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. AskAVetQuestion.com and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.
Thank you for your courteous and thoughtful answer. If nothing else, I feel better about the original decision to extract as opposed to doing a root canal. I just want the very best for my pet and feel terrible that my decision may have led to undue suffering and pain. I will stop kicking myself, thanks in great part to your note. Thanks again for your support and advice.
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Dr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.
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