When Does My Pet Need Dental Surgery?

As a pet parent, one aspect of your furry friend’s health that might not be front and center is their dental health. Yet, oral hygiene is just as vital for pets as it is for humans. While we can articulate when we have a toothache, our pets cannot directly communicate their dental discomfort to us. This is why being proactive in detecting and managing dental issues is crucial, and sometimes, this means considering dental surgery for your pet.

The Warning Signs of Dental Disease in Pets

It’s crucial to monitor your pet’s dental health regularly to ensure their overall well-being. Recognizing the warning signs of dental disease can help you address potential issues early and prevent more severe complications. Here are some common symptoms that may indicate dental problems in pets:

  • Persistent Bad Breath: While some level of “dog breath” is normal, persistent and unusually foul-smelling breath could indicate the presence of dental disease or other underlying health issues.
  • Difficulty Eating or Change in Eating Habits: Pets experiencing dental issues may have difficulty chewing or may show a sudden preference for softer foods, as harder foods can cause discomfort or pain.
  • Pawing at the Mouth or Rubbing the Face: Pets in pain often try to alleviate it by pawing at their mouth or rubbing their face against the ground. Such behavior may indicate oral discomfort or irritation.
  • Bleeding Gums or Blood in Water Bowl or on Chew Toys: Bleeding from the gums or blood in the water bowl or on chew toys can be a sign of gum disease or other dental issues, such as periodontal disease or tooth decay.
  • Loose or Missing Teeth: Loose or missing teeth can be a clear indication of advanced dental disease. Such conditions can cause pain and difficulty in eating, leading to further health complications if left untreated.
  • Visible Tartar Build-Up on the Teeth: Tartar accumulation on the teeth, often appearing as a brownish-yellow layer, can be a sign of poor dental hygiene and may lead to more severe dental problems if not addressed promptly.
  • Swelling Around the Mouth or Face: Swelling or inflammation around the mouth or face could indicate an infection or abscess, which requires immediate attention from a veterinarian.

If you notice any of these signs, a visit to the vet is a must. Early detection is key to treating and managing dental diseases before they necessitate surgery.

What Conditions Warrant Dental Surgery?

Dental surgery for pets is often recommended in various situations where non-invasive treatments may not be sufficient to address the underlying dental issues. Here are some common conditions that may warrant dental surgery for pets:

1. Severe Periodontal Disease

When periodontal disease progresses to an advanced stage, it can lead to severe inflammation, infection, and bone loss. In such cases, dental surgery may be necessary to clean the teeth and gums thoroughly and to address any bone loss that has occurred.

2. Tooth Fractures

If a pet suffers from a fractured tooth, particularly if the fracture extends into the root, dental surgery may be required. Depending on the severity of the fracture, the tooth may need to be extracted or repaired surgically to prevent further pain, infection, or complications.

3. Orofacial Trauma

Traumatic injuries to the face or mouth, such as fractures, dislocations, or soft tissue injuries, may necessitate surgical intervention to repair the damage and ensure proper healing. In some cases, tooth extraction may be necessary to prevent infection and alleviate pain.

4. Tumors or Cysts

Growths or abnormalities in the oral cavity, including tumors or cysts, may require surgical removal to prevent further growth and potential spread of the abnormal tissue. Surgical removal also allows for a biopsy to determine the nature of the growth and guide further treatment if necessary.

5. Misalignment Issues (Malocclusion)

Some pets may experience misalignment issues where the teeth do not meet properly, causing discomfort, difficulty in eating, or potential oral health complications. Surgical correction may be recommended to realign the teeth and improve the overall function and comfort of the pet’s oral cavity.

It’s vital to have a thorough conversation with your vet about the need for dental surgery, possible outcomes, and post-operative care.

Preventative Measures to Avoid Dental Surgery

Maintaining your pet’s dental hygiene can significantly reduce the risk of dental diseases and the potential need for surgery. Here are some preventative steps:

  • Daily tooth brushing with pet-safe toothpaste
  • Providing dental chews that help remove plaque
  • Feeding a dental diet formulated to reduce tartar
  • Regular dental check-ups with your vet
  • Professional cleanings as recommended

These habits can go a long way in keeping those pearly whites healthy.

Prepping Your Pet for Dental Surgery

The idea of your pet undergoing surgery can be intimidating, but preparation can help alleviate some of your concerns.

Before the Procedure

  • Discuss all aspects of the surgery with your vet, including preoperative tests
  • Understand the anesthesia process and its risks
  • Ask about pain management post-surgery
  • Follow fasting guidelines the night before surgery

Gathering all this information will give you peace of mind and help you prepare for your pet’s needs before, during, and after the surgery.

Post-Surgical Recovery

Recovery from dental surgery is as critical as the procedure itself. Your vet will provide specific instructions, which may include:

  • Adjusted feeding instructions, often involving soft food
  • Medication administration for pain and infection prevention
  • Limited activity to prevent opening stitches or causing swelling
  • Follow-up appointments to monitor healing

By following these guidelines closely, you can support your pet through a smooth recovery.

Veterinary Dentistry and Dental Surgery

Veterinary dentists undergo additional training to diagnose and treat oral diseases, perform dental cleanings, and execute dental surgeries. They are the best people to consult on whether your pet requires surgery and how to provide comprehensive dental care. Learn more about their pet dental services by checking out their website. 

How About The Role of a Veterinary Surgeon?

When it comes to surgical interventions, you’ll want a skilled surgery vet by your side. This specialized veterinarian is trained to perform a variety of complex procedures, including spays, neuters, emergency surgeries, and, yes, dental surgeries. Their extensive knowledge ensures your pet is in safe hands during these intricate operations. Not all vets perform surgery, so it might be necessary to seek a vet who is a surgical specialist.


Keeping a close eye on your pet’s dental health is indispensable. While dental surgery might seem drastic, it can be a necessary step to restore your pet’s health and comfort. Understanding when your pet may need such surgery and how to prepare for it will ensure you’re providing the best care possible.