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Root Canals in Dogs and Cats

Dr Banyard has treated many pets with root canal therapy as she sees many dogs and cats with tooth fractures. Fractures of teeth in dogs and cats is quite common.  In a study of a population of  feral cats on Marion Island noted dental fractures, mainly complicated crown fractures in 58% of adult cats and 7% of teeth.

The incidence of pulp exposure in one or more teeth has been reported to be 10% in domestic dogs. The upper fourth premolars and the canine teeth are the most often fractured. If the pulp is open to the mouth then the bacteria in the mouth can infect the pulp and over time reach the bottom of the root and then go into the bone around the tooth. From there the bacteria and their toxins (poisons) can get into the blood supply and travel to the rest of the body and affect distant organs such as the liver, kidney and heart. In the area of the tooth root the bone is destroyed and over time the infection will break out the side of the abscess and through the skin under the eye or the lower jaw. In these situations you may see pus draining. In very bad cases of long duration and mostly seen in small breed dogs the jaw bone is so weakened that the lower jaw can fracture. Another place the pus can drain into are the nasal passages and these patients will sneeze or you may see a discharge from their nose.

The two options in these situations is extraction or root canal therapy.

What is Root canal Therapy?

Root canal therapy is used to save a tooth in which the pulp is infected and is 95% successful. The pulp is entered using a small drill bit called a bur. Tiny files and cleansing solutions are used to remove and clean out the pulp cavity inside the tooth. The objective is to remove all diseased tissue and make the canal sterile and to shape the canal so it is ready to be filled. Because these are many passages in the root canal that are impossible to reach with the files and solutions true sterility is not always possible. When the pulp cavity is cleaned very well and has the desired shape, the walls of the canal are coated with a sealer and then an inert material is placed into the canal to completely fill the chamber. The opening to the outside is then filled with a special material called a resin. This is to completely seal the chamber from bacteria from the mouth. The tooth can then be covered with a metal crown to further protect the pulp.

   For more information please refer to Healthy Mouth, Healthy Pet: Why Dental Care Matters. Available at Amazon,  AAHA and VIN book stores.

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