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What is Tooth Removal?

Tooth removal in the cat is commonly undertaken in first opinion practice as a means of managing dental pain from damaged teeth. It requires a full general anesthetic and careful postoperative pain management. In addition, because of the complex way feline teeth are firmly attached and the invasive techniques necessary to remove them, tooth removal in the cat is considered an act of veterinary surgery, 

The vast majority of dental extractions are undertaken as a result of advanced dental disease. The latter is preventable with regular tooth brushing, in the same way brushing is beneficial for our dental health.

Tooth Removal Procedure in Cats

Once dental disease is identified, the cat is assessed for fitness for a general anesthetic. This includes screening blood tests, and in older patients intravenous fluids may be necessary to protect kidney function. If a dental abscess or gingivitis is present, the clinician may prescribe antibiotics prior to the extractions. 

Once anesthetized, dental radiographs are taken to check for complications such as lesions below the gum line or disease of the jaw bone. The clinician systematically probes all the teeth and gingival pockets, to check for issues not evident in the conscious cat. 

Depending on which teeth need removing, different techniques are used. For difficult removals this involves creating a flap of gum over the tooth root and lifting the flap to expose the jawbone. A high-speed bur then grinds away the bone overlying the root. In multi-rooted teeth the tooth is sectioned using a high-speed cutting bit. Then a sharp dental elevator is inserted between the tooth root and the socket in order to break down the ligaments holding the tooth in place. Only once the tooth is loose will the clinician use extractors to twist and pull the tooth out. 

Where a flap of gum was created, this is replaced and sutured so to seal off the socket. 

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Efficacy of Tooth Removal in Cats

Tooth removal is permanent and non-reversible. It is however extremely effective at removing a constant source of discomfort and pain from a diseased tooth. 

Alternatives to tooth removal include orthodontic treatments including root canal therapy or fillings. However, these are not widely used in first opinion practice and mainly the domain of veterinary dental specialists. Those cases going forward for orthodontic therapy need careful selection, since it is not appropriate to use such advanced techniques unless the owner then commits to daily tooth brushing. 

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Tooth Removal Recovery in Cats

Gum healing takes approximately 10 to 14 days, and the judicious use of gum flaps can greatly increase the cat's comfort during this time. Good pain relief during the procedure reduces postoperative discomfort, but for extensive removals pain relief is advisable for several days. 

After having teeth removed most cats find it easier to lap liquid recovery diets or eat soft food. However, some cats are adept at scooping up biscuits and swallowing them whole, so don't discount kibble as an option.

Most patients are recalled for a postoperative check 2 to 3 days after their surgery. At this stage, the vet checks the gums are healing, there is no infection, and the cat is comfortable. Appropriate action can be taken if complications have arisen. The cat is then checked a week later and, if all has gone well, signed off.

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Cost of Tooth Removal in Cats

Dental surgery in the cat takes expertise and time. In part, the cost of tooth removal reflects the time needed, with a single canine tooth taking 40 to 60 minutes to remove successfully. Add in the cost of intravenous fluids and general anesthetic, and the invoice starts to climb. 

Whilst basic dental descales under anesthesia can cost as little as $120, this rises considerably depending if a number of extractions are required. It is not unusual for complex or multiple extractions to cost $600 - $750, including dental radiographs. 

Referral to a veterinary dentist incurs a specialist consultation fee, around $110 - $220, with screening test and a descale costing around $630. The fee for complex orthodontics is proportionately higher and liable to reach four figures. 

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Cat Tooth Removal Considerations

Dental extractions are not without the risk of complications. Feline teeth have long deep roots, and unfortunately a fistula (a hole or tract) may develop between the mouth and the nasal cavity. This may then need corrective surgery further down the line, in order move a flap of gum to fill the hole. 

Teeth sockets are well supplied with blood, and hemorrhage can be another complication. Part of the preoperative assessment is to look for factors that could predispose to clotting problems. In rare situations, when the sockets bleed once the cat is awake, a repeat anesthetic to control the hemorrhage may be necessary. 

However, the good news is that once the mouth has healed, most cats do very well indeed and are much better able to eat than with diseased teeth. 

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Tooth Removal Prevention in Cats

Good dental hygiene is key to preventing the need for extractions. This is achievable through a combination of strategies: 

  • Tooth Brushing: Daily tooth brushing with a pet toothpaste is strongly recommended. This removes the food debris which leads to plaque deposition on the surface enamel, which in time hardens to tartar
  • Dental Foods: Special dental kibble biscuits mimic a tooth brushing action and slow up the deposition of plaque on the surface of the teeth
  • Dental Treats and Chews: Again, these are designed to scrub the surface of the tooth as the cat chews on them. 
  • Food or Water Additives: Certain seaweed-based additives appear to be beneficial at reducing plaque formation on the teeth. 

In addition six-monthly dental checks by a vet are advisable. This facilitates the early detection of problems, so that they can be treated early and reduce the risk of deterioration leading to dental extractions. 

As well as reducing unnecessary pain and discomfort, good dental hygiene also promotes fresh breath: a bonus for any cat owner! It should also be noted that whilst tooth removal solves the problem with that particular tooth, unless measures are taken to improve dental health, the repeat situation could arise in the future with a different tooth. 

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Tooth Removal Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Domestic shorthair cat

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Fifteen Years

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Unknown severity

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2 found helpful

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Has Symptoms

Oral Tumor

My elderly cat had an abscess on his lower lip. When drained by the vet they found a small tumor. My kitty now has a large wound where the abscess was located and his canine tooth is rubbing into the spot when he eats. Is this something a tooth extraction could help. I know he doesn’t have a lot of time left but I’d like him to be as comfortable as possible. He’s currently eating liquid foods but struggling with chewing due to the location of the wound.

Aug. 5, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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2 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I don't know that having the tooth extracted would help the situation very much The tumor may be getting infected, and periodic antibiotics may help keep him more comfortable if there is any infection. That is something that you can discuss with your veterinarian, as they can see the area and know more about his situation. I hope that he does well.

Aug. 6, 2020

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Buddie

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Tonkinese

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4 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

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My 4year old Tonkinese cat had 13 teeth extracted today, he’s not doing to well atm it’s only been a couple hours tho! I’d like to know all the do’s an don’ts cause I wasn’t able to collect him from vet (sister had to, due to work commitments) he’s a pain Patch on his leg when should I take if off? When Can I feed him?

Sept. 21, 2018

Buddie's Owner

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Fred

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domestic short hair

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10 Years

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Odor
Swelling

Hello! Within the past year my 10 year old cat had an abscess tooth removed. Lately his gums have been a little swollen but today the right side of his mouth looked far more swollen. When I looked in his mouth at his gum it was white (kind of like a canker sore) and smelled. He doesn’t seem to be too bothered by it and wasn’t meowing when I looked at it. Should we wait it out (like I would for a canker sore for myself)or does he need to be seen immediately?

Sept. 9, 2018

Fred's Owner

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Simon

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domestic short hair

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14 Years

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

None

My kitty is already under anesthesia getting his teeth cleaned. Vet called and said he had 5 that need removal and quoted me $1400.00 That sort of blew my socks off. Is this a normal price. Told them not at this time. Too much money. Said she would give us a gel to put on his gums to hopefully bring the gums back up to tooth. Does this sound too much?

Sept. 7, 2018

Simon's Owner

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Mater

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American Short Hair

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12 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

My 12 year old cat had 1 tooth extracted a week ago today, his back right side. He was very anxious after the procedure and paced for 2 1/2 days, he is better now in that department. He hates canned food (I have tried several times) and only eats chicken flavor. So the orders of the vet he is to eat soft foods for 2 weeks and I wet down his food, he finally ate after 3 days of no eating and did for 3 more days. Now he will not touch his food. I gave him some of his treats because of no eating and he ate that.I gave him a couple of his food not watered down and he ate that. Is it ok to do that? He has to eat and I am running out of options. How far is his extraction healed at this point?

Aug. 29, 2018

Mater's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

If Mater had the tooth extracted a week ago, he should be healed by now, and your veterinarian may need to take x-rays to see if there is a retained root that is causing him pain. You are right, he does need to eat, and whatever he will eat at this point, watered down or not, is fine.

Aug. 29, 2018

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Milo

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Bombay

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13 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Sneeze And Runny Nose

My cat Milo was sneezing and had a runny nose often time yellow discharge for about a month. We thought it was just an upper respiratory issue however the antibiotics from the vet didn’t work. I came home tonight and his large fang tooth was on my bed. He doesn’t seem to be in any discomfort and is eating and drinking okay. His sneeze and runny nose have magically gone away. He will be brought to the vet first thing to make sure he is okay. How crazy the sneeze and runny nose went away as soon as his tooth fell out?!?! Those must have been symptoms of a tooth infection

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Static.

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tabby

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8 Years

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Critical severity

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Chipped Tooth
Tooth Extraction

My cat has been dropping his food so I took him to the vet. They said his top canine has a very small chip and his bottom canine (which I saw the chip close to the gums) needs to be extracted. My question is, can food chip a cats teeth? They are on prescription dry food. I just am concerned that that is chipping his teeth. I guess it’s hard to say. The tech didn’t recommend switching to wet food which was surprising. She did recommend getting his teeth cleaned but said that all his other teeth are fine so why would that be necessary (maybe I am a bit naive).

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Sissy

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domestic medium hair

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7 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Red Gums, Lesions

My cat has had 4 dentals in her life and a spay. Total of 5 anesthesic procedures. Jan 2019 then July 2019 each time a couple teeth needed to come out due to resorptive lesions.. now at the next 6month mark both bottom molars are being effected with FORL. Doctor recommends removing all her teeth at this point since she has a history of them and it keeps happening. She is already missing a top canine. But her canines right now are fine. I’m worried about her lower jaw and removing the bottom canines.

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Tyson

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tabby

dog-age-icon

10 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

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Confused.

Went to have my 10yr. old cat that was highly healthy and needed to be checked why he wasn't eating, drinking or going to bathroom. Vet. had him for 4 hrs. to remove 2 k9s in 4 hours. Came out dazed and confused for 2 weeks now and need to know why he is not back to normal when he went in alert as ever. His eyes are not clear and responsive is how it was before. I need someone to help me with my baby. he has totally changed and don't know if he was given too much medicine.

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gia

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Tortoise

dog-age-icon

10 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

None

My female cat (10 years old) has one rotten tooth thats wiggly and ready to come out. She isn't in any sort of pain, doesn't seem to be pawing at it, rubbing it, eating oddly or showing a loss of appetite. Our vet told us she has to get the tooth pulled but it's going to cost approx $1450 with pre-surgery blood work and full anesthesia. The cost is much more than I am able to afford so I was thinking of just letting it fall out on its own. I'm worried what the possible complications could be if I don't get the tooth pulled (its one of the smaller teeth mid way on the left side). I love my cat so I don't want leaving this tooth to cause serious problems but the vet was super vague and just said it needed to come out. Nothing about what might happen if it stays in. I have a feeling they just want the money. Any advice or resources out there to help me make a decision?

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