It's becoming possible for pets to have dental implants placed, but should they? Do any benefits counteract risks? Our Murfreesboro vets discuss dental implants for animals today.
Veterinary medicine has advanced to offer more sophisticated treatment techniques that are gradually making their way into veterinary hospitals and throughout the industry as a whole. Pet dental care is no exception to this.
For pets plagued with advanced tooth decay, tooth extraction is sometimes the only option a veterinarian has. Owners may consider whether dental implants would also work for their pets. That said, what are the advantages and risks of using them on animals? Our vets in Murfreesboro explain these aspects in today's post.
Benefits of Human Dental Implants
For human patients, dental implants may be just what the dentist ordered, as they can keep remaining teeth from becoming misaligned, thereby preventing the "sunken in" appearance of facial muscles that often goes along with tooth loss.
Implants also aid speaking and eating, restoring normal structure to the mouth, and prevent jaw bone loss.
Dental implants can also be beneficial to a person's self-esteem, confidence and psychological health as they support a natural-looking smile.
Benefits of Pet Dental Implants
While dental implants can help the function and appearance of a person's mouth and smile, their application in veterinary medicine has not been studied enough in the real world to determine whether they are safe or successful long-term, or whether they have a positive impact on the average pet's qualify of life.
One potential benefit of dental implants for pets may be to prevent bone loss. When a dog loses a tooth, the bone shrinks in all directions. If your pet loses multiple teeth in one area, bone loss may be significant. That said, researchers have been unable to confirm other potential benefits of implants.
Plus, while bone loss after tooth extractions does happen in dogs and cats, the degree and clinical significance of this loss amounts to much less than what dentists diagnose in human patients.
Risks of Pet Dental Implants
As our pets grow older, they are more likely to lose teeth to periodontal disease. That said, for dental implants to be placed an animal would need multiple episodes of general anesthesia, which can pose a risk, particularly for older animals.
While dental implant surgery is typically successful for human patients, especially if they follow post-op instructions, nerve damage and infection are risks, as are fractured implants, inflammation and bone re-growth. The surgery itself is also a risk.
The success of implants in animals would likely, in large part, be determined by whether an animal received effective routine dental care, along with regular teeth brushing. Veterinary dentistry involves providing effective dental care for pets, but this care is often less routine than for humans, the risk of implant failure in pets may be higher.
Note: While there is no such thing as a "dog dentist" or a "cat dentist", our veterinarians at Brogli, Lane, Weaver & Alexander Animal Hospital do provide complete dental care for pets, from basics such as regular exams, teeth cleanings and polishing to dental X-rays and surgeries.
Other Reasons Pets Do Not Need Dental Implants
When it comes to deciding whether pets need dental implants, there are some other factors to consider. Because dogs and cats have such different facial and dental anatomy than humans, the reasons we might perform dental implant surgeries for people do not transfer to our furry best friends. For example, cats' and dogs' teeth do not shift or extrude after extractions, since the size and root shape of their teeth, along with occlusal forces eating places on the teeth, are different.
Keep in mind that dogs and cats do not have teeth that make contact with each other. Their teeth are designed to grab, kill, tear and swallow food whole - they don't grind and chew their food like humans do. Therefore, living with fewer or no teeth is not an issue.
As for aesthetics, a dog or cat's facial shape does not significantly change following tooth loss. An exception would be the loss of lower canine teeth in small breeds such as the Dachshund or Yorkie. Losing these teeth can change the way they pick up food and cause changes in how the tongue moves. However, they can still do well despite this fact and can maintain their overall health with some simple changes to diet and routine.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.