Veterinary Dentistry: When Extraction is a Better Option Than a Root Canal

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Veterinary Dentistry: When Extraction is a Better Option Than a Root Canal

Root canals and extractions are common procedures performed to address damaged or diseased teeth. Deciding between a root canal and an extraction involves considering several factors, including the integrity of the tooth, the type and extent of damage, periodontal health, and the lifestyle of the pet. Understanding when extraction is the better option can help pet owners make informed decisions about their pet’s dental health.


Understanding Root Canal and Extraction Procedures


Root Canal Therapy

Root canal therapy involves removing the infected or damaged pulp tissue from within the tooth, cleaning and disinfecting the canal, and then filling and sealing it to prevent further infection. This procedure aims to preserve the tooth structure and function, allowing the pet to retain their natural tooth.


Tooth Extraction

Tooth extraction, on the other hand, involves removing the entire tooth from the socket. This procedure is often chosen when the tooth is too damaged or diseased to be saved by a root canal, or when preserving the tooth is not in the best interest of the pet’s overall health.


Factors Influencing the Decision

Extent of Damage

The integrity of the tooth is a crucial factor in determining whether an extraction or a root canal is the better option. If the tooth is severely fractured or if there is significant loss of tooth structure, a root canal may not be feasible. For instance, a tooth with a vertical fracture extending below the gumline often cannot be effectively treated with a root canal and is best removed to prevent ongoing pain and infection.


Remaining Tooth Structure

In cases where the tooth has minimal remaining structure after the removal of the damaged tissue, retaining the tooth through a root canal may not be practical. This is because a weakened tooth is more susceptible to future fractures and may not provide long-term benefits to the pet.



Traumatic injuries, such as fractures caused by accidents or chewing on hard objects, can significantly impact the decision-making process. If a tooth is fractured but the root remains intact, a root canal may be an option. However, if the fracture extends into the root or involves multiple fragments, extraction is typically recommended to alleviate pain and prevent infection.



In cases of severe dental infections or abscesses, especially those that have caused significant bone loss or affected surrounding structures, extraction might be the preferred option. Root canals can treat infections within the tooth, but if the infection has spread extensively to the surrounding bone or tissues, extracting the tooth can help remove the source of infection and promote healing.


Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease, which affects the gums and supporting structures of the teeth, is a common dental issue in pets. The severity of periodontal disease plays a crucial role in deciding between a root canal and extraction. In early stages of periodontal disease, where the supporting structures are relatively intact, a root canal may be viable if the tooth itself is healthy. However, in advanced stages of periodontal disease where there is significant bone loss, gum recession, and mobility of the tooth, extraction is often the better option to prevent further complications and improve the pet’s overall oral health.


Overall Health

The overall oral health of the pet should also be considered. If multiple teeth are affected by periodontal disease or if there are other significant dental issues present, focusing on extractions may provide a more comprehensive and effective approach to improving the pet’s oral health.

The pet’s overall health and age are important considerations. Older pets or those with underlying health conditions may not tolerate extensive dental procedures as well as younger, healthier pets. For these animals, minimizing the duration and invasiveness of dental treatments might make extractions a more practical choice.


Chewing Habits

The chewing habits and behavior of the pet can influence the decision between a root canal and extraction. Pets that are aggressive chewers or those prone to chewing on hard objects may be at a higher risk of fracturing or damaging a tooth that has undergone a root canal. In such cases, extraction might be a more suitable option to prevent recurrent dental issues and ensure the pet’s comfort and well-being.


Quality of Life

Ultimately, the goal is to enhance the pet’s quality of life. If a tooth is causing pain, discomfort, or recurrent infections, extraction can provide immediate relief and improve the pet’s overall well-being. Pet owners and veterinarians should work together to assess how dental issues are impacting the pet’s daily life and choose the option that best supports a happy and healthy lifestyle.


Veterinary Dentist in Milwaukee

Veterinarians and pet owners must work together to evaluate each individual case and choose the treatment that best supports the pet’s long-term health and quality of life. By understanding the factors that influence this decision, pet owners can make informed choices and ensure their beloved companions receive the best possible care for their dental health. It’s important to take preventative precautions, such as at home teeth brushing and annual dental cleanings with a veterinary dentist. If you suspect that your pet has oral health problems, give our team a call to schedule your pet’s examination. 


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