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Cat Tooth Extractions: What to Expect & What to Watch For

Caring for your cat's teeth is an important part of their routine care, unfortunately, it is often missed resulting in serious oral health conditions. Here, our Westfield vets discuss tooth extraction surgery in cats, what to expect after their surgery and during recovery, and how you can prevent them.

Cat Dental Surgery: Tooth Extractions

Your cat's oral health is important to their overall health and well-being. Your cat uses their mouth, teeth, and gums to eat and vocalize, so when their oral structures are diseased or damaged, and stop functioning properly, your cat experiences pain, which will interfere with their ability to eat and communicate normally. 

Not only that, the bacteria and infections that cause many oral health issues in cats won't just remain in your kitty's mouth. Left untreated the infection and bacteria from your cat's mouth may begin to circulate throughout your pet's body, damaging organs such as their kidneys, liver, and heart and leading to more serious impacts on the overall health and longevity of your feline friend. Routine dental exams can help monitor your cat's overall oral health and note signs of dental conditions before they become too serious. These dental exams for your cat are much like when you visit your dentist.

A comprehensive dental exam consists of:

  • Probing the teeth and gumline to measure the depth of the pockets
  • Taking X-rays of the teeth, soft tissue, and bone to help visualize tooth roots and dental ligaments
  • Extracting (removing) any diseased teeth
  • Scaling and polishing (cleaning) the teeth
  • Assessing oral tumors and abnormalities 

In some cases, your vet may discover a serious issue affecting a tooth resulting in the need for tooth extraction. To determine if removal is the right course of action, your vet will note the signs, and complete their examination. After which they will likely perform additional diagnostics to confirm their findings.

Once confirmed they will share this information and treatment plan with you before scheduling (or performing if time permits) the dental surgery. Your vet will also perform pre-anesthetic bloodwork prior to the surgery to ensure that your cat is healthy enough to undergo anesthesia.

What to Watch for After Your Cat’s Dental Surgery 

Sutures may be used to close gum tissue where teeth have been removed during your cat’s surgery. These sutures often dissolve on their own to avoid having another round of anesthesia for suture removal. In some cases, gum tissue is left open to drain and heal on its own. 

If your cat’s mouth tissue is infected, you may notice the following:

  • A foul odor coming from your cat’s mouth 
  • A slight swelling on the lower or upper jawline, or under the eye area; the eye may also seem to bulge or protrude from your cat’s head 
  • Refusal of food
  • Drainage from the nose or mouth 
  • General sluggishness
  • Drooling
  • Pawing at the mouth or rubbing their face on the ground
  • Dropping food while eating

Antibiotics may have already been sent home with you to prevent infection, but call your veterinarian if you notice any of these signs.

If your cat is not eating or sleeping after their dental surgery, you should reach out to your vet to have your feline friend examined.

What can your cat eat after a tooth extraction?

Offer soft foods for several days after your cat’s tooth extraction surgery. These include moist food, semi-moist food, and even kibble that is soaked in water. 

Speak with your veterinarian about any special feeding instructions after surgery to help decrease your cat’s discomfort and pain and encourage healing. 

Your veterinarian may also recommend changing your cat’s current diet to a therapeutic dental or oral care diet. These diets have been formulated and balanced to help control and decrease the incidence of dental disease. 

Dental diets are not a replacement for dental examinations, but they can help decrease the risks associated with dental disease.

How can you manage your cat's pain after dental surgery?

Locally injected numbing agents may have been used in your cat’s mouth to control pain during the tooth extraction surgery. Those local blocks can last anywhere from 6-24 hours, depending on the type of medication that was given. 

After these blocks wear off, you will likely be instructed to give your cat oral medication to control the pain at home. 

Closely monitor your cat’s recovery and watch for signs that they are still in pain:

  • Vocalizing (meowing and howling)
  • Drooling
  • Pawing at their mouth 
  • Refusal of food
  • Hiding from people and other pets 
  • Lethargy (sluggishness) 

Some of these signs can also be side effects of anesthesia or pain medication. If you notice any of these signs and are giving your cat the medication as directed, call your vet to ask for the next steps. 

Do not stop giving medications unless instructed to do so by your veterinarian.

How long is recovery after cat tooth extraction surgery?

Most veterinarians will schedule a recheck 7 - 14 days after cat dental extractions to look in their mouth and assess healing. Sometimes sedation is necessary, but the examination is usually quick and simple.

What can you do to prevent the need for tooth extractions?

To prevent future cat tooth extractions, your veterinarian may suggest certain products and activities to reduce plaque accumulation. These may include:  
  • Dental treats
  • Therapeutic dental diets
  • Water additives 
  • Toothbrushing 
  • Mouth rinsing 
Always speak with your veterinarian about dental products and when they should be started after a dental procedure.

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.

Is your cat due for their annual dental exam and cleaning? Contact our Westfield vets to book an appointment today.

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