While it's becoming possible for pets to receive dental implants, should they? How do any benefits stack up against risks? Our Central Illinois vets discuss dental implants for animals in this post.
Thanks to advances in veterinary medicine, more sophisticated techniques are gradually making their way to veterinary hospitals and the industry as a whole, including in pet dental care.
For pets with advanced tooth decay, tooth extraction is sometimes the only option left. Owners may wonder if dental implants would also work for them. But what are the benefits and risks of using them on animals? Our Central Illinois vets explore this in today's post.
Benefits of Human Dental Implants
Dental implants are a widely used tooth replacement option for human patients. They can prevent remaining teeth from becoming misaligned and the "sunken in" look in the facial muscles that often accompanies tooth loss. Implants also help with eating and speaking, restoring normal structure to the mouth. They also prevent bone loss in the jaw.
In addition, benefits of human dental implants extend beyond oral health. A natural-looking smile can help some patients improve their confidence, self-esteem and psychological health.
Benefits of Pet Dental Implants
While the advantages of dental implants for people are well-documented, the same is not true for pets. In fact, dental implants have not received enough real-world study to say that they are safe or successful long-term, or that they make a positive impact on a pet's quality of life.
Potentially, one benefit of dental implants for pet may be to prevent bone loss. Since bone shrinks in all directions when a dog loses a tooth, bone loss may be large if your pet loses multiple teeth in one area. That said, other potential benefits of implants have not been confirmed.
In addition, though bone loss following tooth extractions does occur for dogs and cats, the degree and clinical significance of this loss is much less than what dentists see 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. Since dental care for pets is often less routine than for humans, the risk of implant failure in pets may be higher.
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 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.